Windrush Day 2020

Following losses in World War II, Britain was in need of labourers, this prompted a campaign to encourage people from other countries in the British Empire and Commonwealth to immigrate to the UK. On 22 June 1948, the first ship carrying immigrants from the Caribbean arrived. This first ship’s name, HMT Empire Windrush , inspired the generation of imigrants to be called ‘The Windrush Generation’.

70+ years later, and 22 June is #WindrushDay in honour of all those who left their homes and, for many, their families to start a new life and help rebuild Britain. It’s a day to celebrate the rich, mixed history that this country has and embrace the wonderful stories, culture and food that has come to shape Britain.
We’ve put together some recommendation for books that’s perfect to read to gain a better understanding of Windrush and the Windrush Generation.


Windrush: a ship through time
by Paul Arnott

Available as physical book

For three decades the Windrush was the maritime Zelig of the twentieth century, playing different roles in the most turbulent years in modern times. Designed in 1930 in the Hamburg boatyard of a Jewish shipbuilder to ferry Germans to a new life in South America, it wasn’t long before Goebbels requisitioned her as one of his ‘Strength Through Joy’ vessels. However, her duties soon darkened: she became a Nazi troop carrier, a support vessel for the pocket battleship Tirpitz and a prison ship transporting Jews to Auschwitz. This is Paul Arnott’s vivid biography of a unique vessel, combining the memories of people who were there with a gripping account of an extraordinary merchant ship at the end of empires.

Surge
by Jay Bernard

Available as eBook and eAudiobook

Dubbed the ‘New Cross Massacre’, the fire was initially believed to be a racist attack, and the indifference with which the tragedy was met by the state triggered a new era of race relations in Britain.Tracing a line from New Cross to the ‘towers of blood’ of the Grenfell fire, this urgent collection speaks with, in and of the voices of the past, brought back by the incantation of dancehall rhythms and the music of Jamaican patois, to form a living presence in the absence of justice. A ground-breaking work of excavation, memory and activism – both political and personal, witness and documentary – Surge shines a much-needed light on an unacknowledged chapter in British history, one that powerfully resonates in our present moment.

Mother Country: real stories of the Windrush children 
edited by Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff

Available as physical book

Britain was known as the Mother Country: a home away from home; a place that you would be welcomed with open arms; a land where you were free to build a new life. 70 years on, this remarkable book explores the reality of the Windrush experience. It is an honest, eye-opening, funny, moving and ultimately inspiring celebration of the lives of both ordinary and extraordinary people.

The Windrush Betrayal
by Amelia Gentleman

Available as physical book and coming soon as eBook

Paulette Wilson had always assumed she was British. She had spent most of her life in London working as a cook; she even worked in the House of Commons’ canteen. How could someone who had lived in England since being a primary school pupil suddenly be classified as an illegal immigrant? It was only through Amelia Gentleman’s tenacious investigative and campaigning journalism that it emerged that thousands were in Paulette’s position. What united them was that they had all arrived in the UK from the Commonwealth as children in the 1950s and 1960s. In ‘The Windrush Betrayal’, Gentleman tells the story of the scandal and exposes deeply disturbing truths about modern Britain.

Home Coming
by Colin Grant

Available as eBook, eAudiobook and physical book

When Colin Grant was growing up in Luton in the 1960s, he learned not to ask his Jamaican parents why they had emigrated to Britain. ‘We’re here because we’re here’, his father would say, ‘You have some place else to go?’. But now, seventy years after the arrival of ships such as the Windrush, this generation of pioneers are ready to tell their stories. ‘Homecoming’ draws on over a hundred first-hand interviews, archival recordings and memoirs by the women and men who came to Britain from the West Indies between the late 1940s and the early 1960s.

Familiar Stranger
by Stuart Hall with Bill Schwarz

Available as physical book

Stuart Hall grew up in a middle-class family in 1930s Jamaica, still then a British colony. He found himself caught between two worlds: the stiflingly respectable middle class in Kingston, who, in their habits and ambitions, measured themselves against the white planter elite; and working-class and peasant Jamaica, neglected and grindingly poor, though rich in culture, music and history. But as colonial rule was challenged, things began to change in Kingston and across the world. When, in 1951, a scholarship took him across the Atlantic to Oxford University, Hall encountered other Caribbean writers and thinkers, from Sam Selvon and George Lamming to V.S. Naipaul. He also forged friendships with the likes of Raymond Williams and E.P. Thompson, with whom he worked in the formidable political movement, the New Left.

Voices of the Windrush generation: the real story told by the people themselves 
by David Matthews

Available as eBook and Physical book

With over 20 first-hand accounts from men, women and children of Windrush, this work sheds light on the true impact of one of the most disastrous and damaging scandals in recent memory, and gives a platform to those most affected – those whose voices have yet to be truly heard. Their stories provide intimate, personal and moving perspective on what it means to be black in Britain today, and the heartache the ‘hostile environment policy’ our government has created has meant for those who have called this country home for half a century and more.

Lovers and Strangers
by Clair Wills

Available as physical book

The battered and exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers – to rebuild, to fill the factories, to make the new NHS work. From all over the world and with many motives, thousands of individuals took the plunge. Most assumed they would spend just three or four years here, sending most of their pay back home, but instead large numbers stayed – and transformed the country. Drawing on an amazing array of unusual and surprising sources, Clair Wills’ book brings to life the incredible diversity and strangeness of the migrant experience.


For more articles and Windrush stories, visit the British Library’s website.

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