Timeline 1900 – 2017

1940-1960

This period was transformative for the position of mixed race families in British society.  While the Second World War (1939-45) again increased the numbers of people in the country from Britain’s colonies, the inflow of large numbers of black American GIs in the country, in preparation for the invasion of Europe, had a greater impact as many forged relationships with British women. The ‘babies they left behind’ preoccupied the British government, voluntary organisations, well-meaning individuals like Pastor Daniels Ekarte, and ‘official’ children’s homes for much of the later 1940s and 50s. The consequences of the war were also felt by Chinese seamen in Liverpool, many of whom (including some who had partners and children in the city) were repatriated to East Asian when the Pacific war with Japan was concluded.

The Second World war, too, had exposed the full horrors of Nazi racist policies on mainland Europe, a programme of systematic state-sponsored incarceration and murder of Jews, Gypsies, and many who were mixed race.  The UNESCO-sponsored statements on ‘race’ in 1950 and 1951 were an attempt to make known the scientific facts about race and to combat racial prejudice, including the spurious arguments about the biological consequences of race crossing. The eugenics movement began to lose its influence as the science underpinning it was revealed to be bogus and interest amongst geneticists turned away from the grand search for patterns of inherited human behaviour to the study of biological molecules and the gene. British anthropologists working on race abandoned physical anthropometry and moved, instead, to social aspects of race relations and processes of ‘racialisation’.

The final, transformative event of these two decades was the start of mass migration to Britain from the Indian Subcontinent, the Caribbean, and sub-Saharan Africa, with the arrival in London of ‘Empire Windrush’ in 1948 with around 500 passengers from Jamaica. During the two decades 1951-71 the ethnic composition and geographical spread of new communities in Britain was to be changed beyond recognition, the New Commonwealth-born population increasing from 0.2 million to 1.2 million. Cities and towns like Birmingham, Leicester, Bradford, and Wolverhampton, headed the ranking and saw, for the first time, growing numbers of mixed race families.