Hello and a big welcome to our blog! We are delighted to be working with Mix-d: to share the findings of our research on mixed race people, couples and families in early 20th century Britain through the creation of the Mix-d: Timeline. The Timeline will provide highlight many key events in the history of racial mixing and mixedness in twentieth century Britain, as well provide an insight into the everyday lives and experiences of mixed race people, couples and families during this time.
For this first blog entry, we thought we’d say a bit about why we started the research project that the Timeline will draw on and what we found along the way.
As researchers interested in mixed race people, couples and families, we were aware that the little history that had been told about this group - particularly around the interwar period - had assumed that theirs was an inherently negative or problematic experience. We were also aware that such perceptions continued to influence how mixed people, couples and families were seen in Britain today.
Knowing that contemporary research on racial mixing has tried to challenge perceptions of mixed race people, couples and families in Britain today by asking them about their experiences, rather than assuming what these are, we were keen to see if we could identify earlier accounts that might also cause us to revise our understandings of these groups in early 20th century Britain. In particular, we were keen to compare ‘official’ accounts – e.g. government reports, social science research, newspaper articles, etc. – with those of mixed race people, couples and families themselves. Since we weren’t sure what sort of material might be available, we applied for a grant from the British Academy to allow us to conduct a small-scale exploratory project in this area. The grant allowed us to visit national and local archives, libraries and museums – mainly in the dockland areas of London, Liverpool and Cardiff where we already knew many mixed race couples had met and raised children had settled in the early 20th century.
We had hoped to find some records and personal accounts relating to these families and people, but what we found far exceeded our expectations. The project sourced a fantastic range of archival material, including official documents, autobiographical recordings and photo and film material, which has helped us to understand more about the experiences of these families and the effect that official attitudes to racial mixing and mixedness had on their lives.
Thanks to a grant from the Arts and Humanities Council, we’ll be working with Mix-d: over the next few months to turn our findings into the Timeline which will show key events as well as extracts from documents, photos and video and audio footage. We’ll be keeping you updated on our progress through the blog – feel free to contact us or leave a message if you have any questions or comments. The Timeline is a work-in-progress so we’re interested to hear if there’s anything in particular you think it’s important to include or that we’ve overlooked. We hope that the Timeline will act as its own archive and, over time, that we can expand and add to it further, including through uploading the memories and accounts of Mix-d: readers.
Many thanks for reading so far and we’ll be blog again soon.
Chamion and Peter