Long before the arrival of the ‘Empire Windrush’ after the Second World War, Liverpool was widely known for its polyglot population, its boisterous ‘sailortown’ and cosmopolitan profile of transients, sojourners and settlers. Regarding Britain as the mother country, ‘coloured’ colonials arrived in Liverpool for what they thought to be internal migration into a common British world. What they encountered, however, was very different. Their legal status as British subjects notwithstanding, ‘coloured’ colonials in Liverpool were the first to discover: ‘There Ain’t No Black in the Union Jack’. Despite the absence of significant new immigration, despite the high levels of mixed dating, marriages and parentage, and despite pioneer initiatives in race and community relations, black Liverpudlians encountered racial discrimination, were left marginalized and disadvantaged and, in the aftermath of the Toxteth riots of 1981, the once proud ‘cosmopolitan’ Liverpool stood condemned for its ‘uniquely horrific’ racism. ‘Before the Windrush’ is a fascinating study that enriches our understanding of how the empire ‘came home’. By drawing attention to Liverpool’s mixed population in the first half of the twentieth century and its approach to race relations, this book seeks to provide historical context and perspective to debates about Britain’s experience of empire in the twentieth century.
'With this - his best - book, Professor Belchem tells a story from the Mersey that not only speaks to the British present, it roars. [...] So roll over Nigel Farage: longer then anywhere else in Britain, Liverpool has heard it all before and knows where it leads.'
Ed Vulliamy, The Observer
pioneering study of race relations in twentieth-century Liverpool, based on a
wealth of primary sources and written with clarity. The general treatment is chronological, from
the early 1900s to the Toxteth riots in 1981. ...This book is more than a contribution to the city’s
history: it should be read by people responsible for shaping the country’s
future race relations.'
'The research on which [Before the Windrush] is based is characteristically deep and wide-ranging... it is informed throughout by an intimate understanding of the peculiarities of place and people. Belchem has written an important monograph which merits study by all concerned with the subject, and it is right to salute here both this particular achievement and his overall contribution to the history of Liverpool.'
Philip Waller, English Historical Review
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