Before the Windrush

BookBefore the Windrush

Before the Windrush

Race Relations in 20th-Century Liverpool


March 31st, 2014



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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

The Observer

'… a 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.'
Northern History

'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

Author Information

John Belchem, Emeritus Professor of History at the University of Liverpool, is acknowledged as Liverpool’s leading historian, whose many publications include editing the Liverpool 800 book, published on the city’s 800th anniversary. He recently contributed to the Peterloo Massacre bicentenary programme.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
Cover 1
Half-title 4
Title page 6
Copyright page 7
Contents 10
List of illustrations 11
List of tables 13
List of abbreviations 14
Acknowledgements 16
Preface 18
Introduction 24
Chapter 1 40
Chapter 2 62
Chapter 3 102
Chapter 4 144
Chapter 5184
Chapter 6 220
Chapter 7 248
Chapter 8 274
Sources consulted 302