Coming to Manchester: Stories of South Asian migration to Manchester

This blog looks at South Asian migration to Manchester, using the Push-Pull theory of migration to deepen understanding. It is written for readers with limited knowledge of South Asian migration to Manchester, but we hope that readers with South Asian roots will recognise their community’s experiences and find something of interest here. This piece is longer than our usual blogs but we thought that given the broad scope – and the fact it’s South Asian Heritage Month – readers would enjoy a leisurely read.

South Asian Heritage Month celebrates the history, arts, culture and heritage of British communities with South Asian roots between 18th July and 17th August 2020. To mark the first ever South Asian Heritage Month we at the Ahmed Iqbal Ullah RACE Centre will publish a series of collections-based blogs. Our blogs will offer insight into the heritage and experiences of Manchester’s South Asian communities, through the lens of our specialist library and archive collections. We aim to tell the stories of people with South Asian roots in Manchester, in their own voices.

The context

What do we mean by South Asia?

South Asian, in a literal sense, encompasses Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Sri Lanka, Burma and Bhutan. However, as Afghanistan, Burma and Bhutan are considered significantly different culturally, South Asia is usually – in the UK at least – taken to refer to the area formerly known as India under British rule, and now comprises of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.  

Kashmir, with its complex history and contested boundaries, is seldom acknowledged in its own right. Kashmir was once an independent princely state but was brought under British rule from 1846. After the British left the region in 1947 the area was split between Pakistan and India. Pakistani-governed Kashmir is known as Azad Kashmir, and Indian-governed Kashmir as Jammu and Kashmir. However, when we talk about the area we often consider it as a whole, as many Kashmiris on either side of the border refer to themselves as Kashmiri first and foremost.

British rule and the subsequent Partition of India

Map showing India pre-1947 Partition. The area includes modern-day Pakistan, Bangladesh and Kashmir.
Map of British India in 1914              

It is impossible to understand South Asian migration without talking about British rule and the Partition of India in 1947. We encourage you to read further on this area to provide context for this blog. Dr Chandrika Kaul’s piece for the BBC From Empire to Independence: The British Raj in India 1858-1947 offers a useful overview of British rule. For more depth, please see the Further Resources section at the end of this blog.

Early South Asian migration to Manchester

South Asian migration to the UK goes back centuries. Men from Bangladesh and Mirpur (now in Azad Kashmir) worked as lascars (seamen) for British shipping companies for centuries. Women also came, usually working as ayahs (nannies) to British children. Manchester University has long attracted students from the middle and upper classes of the Indian subcontinent, and there is evidence of Punjabi traders in Manchester from the 1930s, who set up cafes to cater for the South Asian students and migrants.

Post-Second World War Migration to Manchester: Push-pull factors

It was from the 1950s, however, that numbers of South Asian migrants increased significantly, and more visible communities formed. Their migration was due to a complex interplay of political, economic, environmental and social factors, some of which were negative (push factors) and some more positive (pull factors).

Push factors

War and civil unrest were major push factors. The rushed and arbitrary Partition of India by the British, as they gave India its independence and created the new state of Pakistan, sowed the seeds for long-lasting conflict across the sub-continent.  The Bangladeshi War of Independence, where Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) broke free from Pakistani rule, and ongoing disputes over the Jammu and Kashmir territory have left parts of South Asia unsettled and – at times – at war or experiencing major civil unrest.

Some rural areas experienced poverty which forced people to leave in search of a more secure and better life.  This was in part due to geographical issues, such as hilly land that was hard to cultivate or limited access to irrigation but was often exacerbated by a lack of investment or infrastructure development by governments.

In Mirpur, in Azad Kashmir, the creation of the Mangla Dam in 1960 left over 100,000 people landless. This resulted in significant Mirpuri migration to the North of England.  Natural disasters also led to migration: the Bhona cyclone devastated Bangladesh in 1970 killing over half a million people and leaving many thousands stripped of their possessions and homes. To those who had lost their homes, land and possessions in these traumatic events, migration may have seemed the only way to re-build lives and livelihood. Fazal Rahman explained how the loss of his land through the creation of the Mangla Dam led to his migration to the UK:

Excerpt from group reminiscence session, Kashmiri Lives Project (GB3228.79.25)

I came to this country 24th March 1961….The reason I came to England was because our land back home was going to be submerged in the [Mangla] Dam.  Then the income from the watermill was falling— because of the construction of the dam people were displaced and were moving here and there.  We thought people are going to England and there’s plenty of work and business opportunities here.  We thought let’s try it. 

Some South Asians came to the UK via other countries, notably those who came from Kenya and Uganda in the early 60s. These migrants were known as ‘twice migrants’ and in most cases this was a forced migration. Migrants had gone to Africa (mainly from Punjab and Gujarat) to work in British colonial governments. Many experienced better conditions than African populations and in some countries this caused resentment. After independence, countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Malawi brought in policies to ensure African people had greater control of the economy and political representation. Many South Asians hadn’t taken up nationality of their newly independent countries and as a result experienced economic and social disadvantage. In some countries, South Asians were deported or ordered to leave at short notice. The Striking Women website offers this useful piece, Twice migrants: African Asian migration to the UK, which draws on oral histories and archive records to tell the story of South Asian migration from East Africa.

Lastly, changes to UK immigration policy were key factors in migration from South Asia (and other parts of the Commonwealth). Immigration to the UK was relatively open before the 1960s, as post-war UK was in urgent need of labour for the new National Health Service and other areas of the economy. The British National Act of 1948, for example, gave British citizenship to anyone who lived in the British Empire and Commonwealth at that point. So, in the post-war period, many Bangladeshis, Indians and Pakistanis were also UK citizens and fully entitled to travel to the UK.

However, the Commonwealth Immigration Act 1962 restricted Commonwealth immigration and the Immigration Act of 1971 introduced further restrictions on wives and children joining men who had previously migrated. There were sharp increases in the numbers of South Asians migrating to the UK in the run-up to these legislation changes, as people sought to migrate while they were still able to. It is important to note that these legislation changes didn’t affect all Commonwealth citizens equally: Commonwealth citizens who were born in the UK or had at least one parent / grand-parent born in the UK still had free entry and didn’t need work permits to take up paid work. This effectively worked in favour of white Commonwealth citizens in countries like Australia, New Zealand and South Africans and against citizens in Africa, the Caribbean and South Asia.

Pull factors

There were significant pull factors at play too. As referred to earlier, post-war immigration policy was fairly open, reflecting the labour needs of the UK directly after the Second World War. The creation of the NHS resulted in a need for skilled medical staff; transport workers were needed to run public transport and the textile mills of the North offered less skill-dependent job opportunities.

Despite the persistent narrative of migrants as a drain on national resources, in many cases there was a lack of willing British-born labour and so men from Bangladesh and Pakistan were directly recruited from rural areas to fill this gap.  Ed Stacey, author of Cotton, Curry and Commerce (see Further Resources for details) described how Oldham’s textile industry brought men from South Asia to work in the mills:

The expansion of the British economy in the 1950s and 1960s created substantial shortages of labour particularly in textiles, traditional manufacturing and transport.  These sectors continued with working practices such as long hours and shift work which coupled with low pay made the jobs unattractive to British workers…..  the answer seemed to be to bring in workers from abroad.  They could take these unpopular jobs at Third World wage levels.  Consequently ‘Great Britain Ltd’ responded by looking to remnants of the Empire and the newly independent Commonwealth countries to bring workers as a temporary solution to what was seen as a short-term labour problem….Oldham mainly focused on rural areas of Pakistan and the Sylhet region, soon to be part of Bangladesh.    

Many of our oral histories support this; we see how in some cases South Asian workers were encouraged to recruit their compatriots with financial incentives:

 In those days, if you took someone to work in the factory they gave you a £2 reward.  That’s what the situation was then.  If you bring a worker you got £2. 

Excerpt from group reminiscence session, Kashmiri Lives project (GB3228.79.25)

As well as direct recruitment, chain migration played a strong role. As one migrant found work they would send word to their kinsmen back home. Often those who were already employed in the UK would give or lend money to those at home, so they could reach the UK. Daalat Ali describes how his family clubbed together to pay for his father to come to the UK. This was a common practice, with kinship groups (or those from the same village) investing in one community member, trusting that he would then bring them to the UK in turn.

Black and white photo, showing head and shoulders of three Asian men (seated) and a younger Asian boy standing behind them.

Dalaat Ali and his brothers; Daalat is front right with no tie. (GB3228.79.31)

They had this discussion and they said “Well if we pull together, if one of us goes then he can call the rest”. So, after some discussion, they all agreed on my father and then the reason was he was the hardest worker (laughs). If he goes and then he can call us over. So what they did was they all chipped in and then obviously that wasn’t enough and then the extended family and my uncle and others they went round and borrowed money and this is how my father ended up in England.

Excerpt from oral history transcript, Kashmiri Lives project (GB3228.79/6/1)

Given that many South Asians had come from areas with poor healthcare and education infrastructure, a country with free and reasonably developed education and healthcare must have seemed understandably attractive. For some, migration was a way of offering their children a more secure future and greater social mobility than what was available back home. This was certainly the case for Anjum Malik who came to the UK from Pakistan:

But we came here because my dad wanted us to have the best education, and he believed that England offered the best social system and the best education in the world at the time.

Excerpt from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (40.2.23)

Coming to Manchester: Voices from our archives

First impressions and early experiences

For South Asians arriving in the UK, getting through immigration control could be a challenge: their right to be in the UK was often disputed regardless of legislation. Anjum Malik talks of this, and how the family prepared themselves:

My mum and dad always had a picture taken of the family on all their anniversaries, every wedding anniversary… So we had all these photos, and when we were coming my dad wrote us a letter saying that there was a lot of trouble at immigration. They’d give you a really hard time in those days – I don’t know what it’s like now – and to just bring the photos with us, as they’d probably question me or my children, or whatever. So that was the most important thing to bring when we came, and we brought that with us. And in fact, my mum did pull them out and show them to the immigration man at the airport at Heathrow.

Excerpt from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (GB3228.40.2.23)

Many South Asian migrants came from rural areas or small towns and the contrast between rural Bangladesh, India or Pakistan and urban Manchester must have been striking. Shoab Akhtar arrived in the UK in 1977 and was struck by the contrast to his village life in Mirpur:

 So we landed at Heathrow airport and I was, like, really amazed by all these lights that I saw, mainly street lights because in the village that I grew up we had no electricity and when I went to school, in the primary school… I had to sit on the floor on a mat, write with chalk and slate and when I landed at Heathrow all these lights etc. I was really excited. Why, where’ve they got all this electricity from? Because we’d only got electricity six months prior to coming to Britain.

Extract from oral history transcript Kashmiri Lives project (GB3228.79.28)

The cold and damp weather, lack of colour and harsh appearance of the urban environments people encountered on arrival is remarked upon time and time again in our oral histories. Anjum Malik arrived in the UK from Pakistan as a young girl, in 1968:

My first impression was not that good because it was cold and all the houses were the same colour – in Pakistan, all the houses where I came from were painted in different colours, and there were lots of trees. I didn’t like it at first – I found it dull and dark and cold.

Extract from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (GB3228.40/3)

Selina Ullah also arrived as a child, arriving from Bangladesh in 1972:

As a six year-old, I was very shocked by the dress of the women. Miniskirts were in fashion; women were exposing their legs, so for me it was very shocking. I remember sitting on the plane, and we came by British Airways…. The air hostesses were all English, and they were obviously wearing skirts and tights. I’d never seen tights before, so every time an air hostess went past, I kept stroking her leg to feel her tights. And she kept looking at me and smiling, and I think she must have been used to it, because I think a lot of children probably stroked her legs to feel this material on her!

She talks about schooling in Manchester:

The uniform was not very culturally sensitive because anybody who wanted to cover their legs had to wear trousers. So we had to have this standard uniform which was a jumper or a cardigan with a blouse underneath, and a skirt. If you wanted to cover your legs you had to wear trousers under your skirt, so we’d have all these Asian girls wearing trousers plus a skirt on top. It’s only now that it’s become fashionable to wear a skirt on top of trousers, but in those days it was very embarrassing – you looked horrible in your school uniform.

Extracts from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (GB3228.40.3)

Nazarin Salim came from Mirpur as an adult in 1998 and found this a lonely time, as well as struggling with a lack of English:

In this country, when you come from Pakistan you’re away from your family.  If you’re on your own it can feel as though by coming to this country you’ve ended up alone… When we came here we didn’t know anyone in the area.  You used to look for someone familiar who you could talk to. …

For her, arriving with no English made life very hard:

The first year was very difficult.  I couldn’t speak the language (English). We didn’t know anything and couldn’t communicate.  These aren’t things that you can’t forget.  The first time you go to a country and if you don’t know the language then you’ve got nothing.  It’ll be difficult to survive.  I used to tell my husband what I needed to buy, then when he had the time, he would tell me how to speak the language.  He said “If anybody asks you a question at the very least say yes or no.  Don’t make a face or anything.  Say yes or no.”

Things improved, however. Her daughter’s birth meant she started going out and about more and she also started learning English:

After a year my daughter was born.  I got used to…going to the doctors or other places.  When you see several people sitting together it makes you realise people do go out.  Then Sure Start started at Deeplish Community Centre.  I started going there with my children.  I made friends and started to understand things.  Things aren’t difficult.  Whether I was saying things right or wrong I made an effort to speak English.  Then I started going to English classes. 

Excerpts from oral history transcript Kashmiri Lives project (GB3228.79.23.2)

Khalida Quddoos came to the UK from Pakistan on marriage in 1965.

Black and white photo of a young Asian woman wearing traditional Indian clothing. She stands on a wide open area, possibly a beach, with buildings in the distance.
Khalida Quddoos, 1965, shortly after arriving in the UK (GB3228.40.4)

I came out of the aeroplane, followed my husband and met up with my family, my sister-in-law and her husband. My feelings were just to go home and be safe, to get out of the crowd, it was so busy.

They lived in London for a few weeks but then moved to Manchester. Khalida described the shock of arriving in Manchester:

My husband told me we were going to a city called Manchester…. “Oh, I’d read about this in my geography book – is it going to be like that or different?” but my experience was totally different when I came to Manchester. It was one of the coldest days in Manchester, I arrived by car with my father in-law, my husband, my auntie and her husband, and when they opened the door to their house, it was just black rooms, dark everywhere. It was a long corridor to go through, and they tried to switch on the lights as they went into it room by room. And I said to myself, “No, this is not life.” Next morning I got up, had my breakfast and I started cleaning. The house was so black-dirty, I don’t know. I can’t describe it.

Excerpt from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (GB3228.40.3)

Many migrants found that their qualifications, work experience and expertise gained back home weren’t recognised or valued in the UK. Surjit Singh arrived in the UK, aged 21, with business and laboratory experience but soon found that this wasn’t recognised:

Well, at that time, it was easy to find a job, but it wasn’t that easy to find a proper job, which I could do. Like when I came into this country, and my qualification and my previous jobs were in the office and the Teacher Training Institute and so on, but I could not get a single job in this country. And I had to go and work in a factory to do the storekeeping and other machine work, which I would never have done in India. But I got a job, that’s the main thing, to start my life with.

Excerpt from oral history transcript Exploring our Roots project (GB3228.40.2)


Racism, inevitably, is a recurrent theme in our collections. Anjum Malik talks about racism she experienced at school:

And I experienced tremendous racism at school – I was picked on …. My headteacher’s favourite saying to Asian kids was, “Go back to where you came from, stop wasting my time.” …When he said that to me, I told him he couldn’t do that, and that would cause tremendous problems for me because I would get chucked out of school all the time. I spent a lot of time in corridors throughout my school years.

Extract from Exploring our Roots oral history transcript (40.2.23)

It wasn’t purely interpersonal racism; institutional racism is evident in our collections. Surjit Singh had discovered that his previous office and laboratory experience wasn’t recognised here and eventually found factory work. He described the discrimination he faced at work and the lack of support or information that might have helped him to pursue his rights.

I was treated differently because I was Asian and I had come from India. There was an element of a little bit of language problems as well, no doubt about that, but still, I could do quite a lot of jobs better than other people, but I wasn’t given the chance to do it. … I felt that I was discriminated quite a lot, and that was because I trained about six foremen while I was a chargehand, and I wasn’t given the job of foreman. …. when I questioned that, then I was promised that I would be given a job as foreman come the next vacancy. But unfortunately I fell ill and went to the hospital, and to my surprise I got a letter from the management saying that they cannot afford my absence from the department. So therefore If I wanted to come back after my illness, then I would have to come on the machines, rather than as a chargehand. So in other words, I was demoted from my job! Had I had any knowledge of unfair dismissal and so on, then I would have most certainly have gone to the tribunal and would have got some money, but I didn’t have any support or any knowledge at the time, so I could not follow that path.

Extract from Exploring our Roots oral history transcript (40.2.37)

Individual and collective resilience

A theme that emerges from our oral history collections time and time again is that of the resilience of those earlier migrants to the UK, as well as the way in which they – particularly where there was a family connection, or perhaps where people came from the same village – supported each other. Early on, this support took the form of interpersonal support, as Daalit Ali explains:

…if one person in the house is working and say 15 people in that house are unemployed.  Then that one person would bear the cost of those 15 people.  The Kashmiris did this.  No one else did this.  Then when they got a job they supported the others.  This is how Kashmiris settled in the UK. 

Excerpt from group reminiscence session, Kashmiri Lives Project (GB3228.79.25)

Abid Hussain talks about how his father Choudhry Nadir Hussain supported many of his fellow Mirpuri Kashmiris in Manchester:

I remember when I was young I had people coming and knocking on my door at 12.00 a.m. or 2 a.m. in the morning and saying, “Mr. Choudhry Nadir Hussain, we’ve got this issue” or “One of our family members was coming from abroad actually has been—is being interviewed by the immigration officials.  Could you assist?” and my father did not hesitate to assist.

He explains that his father was able to play this key role as he spoke English well and had good relationships with local police and politicians.

 A lot of individuals who had actually migrated from Pakistan at that time were illiterate and didn’t know how to read or write English and my father was fortunate enough to have that metric secondary years education in Mirpur High School and the skills which he grasped from that education helped him in the United Kingdom—so my father worked tirelessly to provide support for the young and old people and in particular people from all communities including the Kashmiri, the Pakistani, the Bengali, the Indian, the Irish and English. 

Excerpt from oral history transcript Kashmiri Lives project (GB3228.79/1/1)

This mutual support was necessary: statutory agencies showed little or no recognition of the specific needs of migrants from South Asia.

As Manchester’s South Asian communities grew and second generations were born our archives document how they established their own cultural and welfare organisations. Faith organisations were established by the early migrants, moving from worship in small numbers at home to founding their own mosques (Muslims) mandirs (Hindu temples) and gurdwaras (Sikh temples). Many oral histories document how communities managed to raise considerable funds to build their own places of worship, showing great resourcefulness and determination. Surjit Singh was part of a small group of Sikhs who built one of Manchester’s first gurdwaras, using government job creation grants, loans and donations from the community:

I concentrated on the project we had of building a new Sikh temple in Monton Street. I was General Secretary of that temple from 1971, and we had plans to build this building, but no funds. People were raising the funds, half a crown per family per week, but that didn’t get that much anyway over the years. And in 1976 or 75, we heard that the government introduced a new scheme called a Job Creation scheme, under which charities and the social community organisation were able to get some grant to employ people to do their jobs which we had. And in the same way we had a project to build a new building for the Gurdwara, and we thought we might as well apply for that grant.

Extract from Exploring our Roots oral history transcript (40.2.37)

The project was awarded £120,000. However, the government grant came with many conditions about how it could be used, so much of the funding still needed to be raised from other donations, from the members of the community at large, and some bank loans. The gurdwara was completed in 1978.

South Asian communities also established not-for-profit organisations, many aimed at meeting the welfare needs of communities. In many cases, these organisations – often run by volunteers – were offering culturally-appropriate services that statutory organisations should have been delivering, especially those that delivered services in community languages. Again, the resilience and resourcefulness of Manchester South Asian communities are embodied in these organisations.

One such example is Ananna (Manchester Bangladeshi Women’s Organisation) which was founded in 1989 to support Bangladeshi women in Manchester. The organisation was established by Bangladeshi women and is managed and run by Bangladeshi women. Its organisational archive charts how over the years Ananna successfully secured funding to deliver a range of services meeting the women’s needs. It now plays a key role in Greater Manchester, supporting and representing women of Bangladeshi heritage.

Simple black and white photo of a poster. The poster invites readers to Manchester Bangladeshi Womens Project event celebrating International Women's Week, at Longsight Library on the 3rd of March, 1990. It is women-only, and a creche is offered.
Invitation to Ananna International Women’s day event 1990 
Group of about 20 to 30 women of Bangladeshi heritage on a march. They carry a banner for Annana, Manchester Bangladeshi Women's Organisation at the front of the group.

Ananna at International Women’s Day March for Women 2020


Throughout this blog we have drawn on the many oral histories held in our archive collections. Our collections reveal a multitude of different experiences, unsurprising considering the gender, class and faith, language and cultural differences within South Asian communities. We should not ignore or gloss over these differences. However, reading the many transcripts and listening to people talk about their experiences reveals some common and recurring themes: the bravery of those who left home to come to the UK; the hostility and racism that many experienced early on (and today) and individual and community resilience and resourcefulness. This is what we wish to celebrate in this first ever South Asian Heritage Month.

We hope this blog has left you wanting to know more. There’s a wealth of resources for readers who want to deepen their understanding of South Asian migration to the UK and South Asian communities and identity today. The following Further Resources list is by no means comprehensive but gives starting points for further reading.

Some of these publications are available in our library (accessible via Manchester Libraries online catalogue) and for others you may need to look further afield. We will update this list periodically, so please keep coming back here.


Further Resources

Partition of India

The Great Divide: The violent legacy of Indian Partition. William Dalrymple in The New Yorker (2015)

How the Partition of India happened – and why its effects are still felt today Sarah Ansari  in The Conversation (2017)

Borders & boundaries: Women in India’s Partition by Ritu Menon & Kamla Bhasin (Kali for Women, 1998)

Inventing Boundaries: Gender, Politics and the Partition of India edited by Mushirul Hasan (Oxford University Press, 2000)

Midnight’s Furies: the deadly legacy of India’s Partition by Nisid Hajari (Penguin Random House India, 2016)

Pakistan as a Peasant Utopia: the Communalization of Class Politics in East Bengal, 1920-1947 by Taj ul-Islam Hashmi (Westview, 1992)

Partition Voices: Untold British Stories by Kavita Puri (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019)

Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide by Ayesha Jalal (Harpercollins, 2013)

Remembering Partition: Violence, Nationalism and History in India by Gyanendra Pandey (Cambridge University Press, 2001)

Remnants of a separation: a History of the Partition through Material Memory by Aanchal Malhotra (HarperCollins, 2018)

Reviews: the High Politics of India’s Partition: the Revisionist Perspective by Asim Roy in Modern Asian Studies, 24 (2) pp. 385-415, (Cambridge University Press, 1990)

The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories by Vazira Fazila Zamindar (Columbia University Press, 2010)

The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India by Urvashi Butalia (Penguin, 1998)

The Partitions of Memory: the Afterlife of the Division of India edited by S. Kaul (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001)

The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan by Ayesha Jalal (Cambridge University Press, 1985)

South Asian Migration to UK

Asians in Britain:  British Library website

Asian Britain: a Photographic History by Susheila Nasta (The Westbourne Press, 2013)

Asians in Britain: 400 Years of History by Rozina Visram (Pluto Press, 2002)

Ayahs, Lascars and Princes: The story of Indians in Britain 1700-1947 by Rozina Visram (Routledge, 2015)

Balti Britain: A Journey Through the British Asian Experience by Ziauddin Sardar (Granta, 2009)

Indians in Britain: Anglo-Indian Encounters, Race and Identity, 1880-1930 by Shompa Lahiri (Routledge, 1999)

My Journey: An Autobiography by Maluk Singh Chuhan edited by Jagjit Chuhan (Gulab Publications, 2011)

Mobility and Containment: The Voyages of South Asian Seamen c.1900 – 1960 by Ravi Ahuja, in International Review of Social History, vol. 51, 2006, pp. 111–141.

Routledge Handbook of the South Asian Diaspora edited by Joya Chatterji &, David Washbrook (Routledge, 2018)

South Asians and the shaping of Britain, 1870-1950: A Sourcebook by Rehana Ahmed (et al) (Manchester University Press, 2013)

South Asian Migration and Settlement in Great Britain, 1951–2001 by Ceri Peach, in Contemporary South Asia 15(2), pp.133-146, (Published online, 23 Nov 2006)

The political economy of migration: Pakistan, Britain, and the Middle East by Roger Ballard in Migrants, Workers and the Social Order, Jeremy Eades, pp.17-41 (Tavistock,1987)


An Immigration History of Modern Britain: Multicultural Racism since 1800 by Panikos Panayi (Longman, 2010)

The Impact of immigration: a Documentary History of the Effects and Experiences of Immigrants in Britain since 1945 by Panikos Panayi (Manchester University Press, 1991)

The Good Immigrant compiled by Nikesh Shukla (Unbound, 2016)

Local migration

Cotton, Curry and Commerce: The History of Asian Businesses in Oldham by Ed Stacey (Oldham Council, 2013)

From Textile Mills to Taxi Ranks: Experiences of Migration, Labour and Social Change by Virinda S Kalra (Routledge, 2019) (based on research in Oldham)

Oral History

Bangla Brighton by Safia Mohamud (QueenSpark Books, 2006)

Here to Stay: Bradford’s South Asian Communities by Bradford Heritage Recording Unit (Bradford Heritage Recording Unit, 1994)

Here to Stay: Memories of Bangladeshi, Indian and Pakistani People who have come to live in Tameside by Nazrul Hoque (Tameside MBC Local Studies and Archive Centre, 2006)

South Asian Heritage Interviews Rossendale, England by Different Moons (Different Moons, 2016) – the Different Moons project set out to record the history, lives and stories of individuals from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India who came to Britain after the Second World War and settled in Rossendale, Lancashire.

Speaking for Ourselves: Sikh Oral History by Manchester Sikh Family History Project

Fiction & Poetry

Londonstani by Gautam Malkani (Harper Perennial, 2007)

Gautam Malkani tells of a Britain that has never before been explored in the novel: a country of young Asian and white boys (desis and goras) trying to work out a place for themselves in the shadow of the divergent cultures of their parent’s generation.

Look we have coming to Dover! By Daljit Nagra (Faber, 2007)

Taking in its sights Matthew Arnold’s ‘land of dreams’, Nagra explores the idealism and reality of multicultural Britain with wit, intelligence and mischief.

Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie (Vintage, 2008)

Examines India’s transition from British colonialism to independence and the partition of India.

The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi (Faber & Faber, 1990)

Following the experiences of Karim, a mixed-race teenager, who is desperate to escape suburban South London and to have new experiences in London in the 1970s. 

Train to Pakistan by Khushwant Singh (Grove Press, 1994)

First published in 1956. this novel recounts the Partition of India in August 1947 through the perspective of Mano Majra, a fictional border village.  Instead of depicting the Partition in terms of only the political events, Singh provides a human dimension which brings to the event a sense of reality, horror, and believability.

In Spite of Oceans: Migrant Voices by Huma Qureshi (The History Press, 2015)

This book explores the individual journeys of generations in transition from the South Asian subcontinent to England, based on real events and interviews.