Maud Blair and Mike Cole
In this chapter we begin by examining Britain’s historical legacy of ‘race’, class and Empire, and look at the way this was represented in the school curriculum of the early twentieth century. We argue that the attitudes and images projected by school texts at this time and reinforced in government statements and policies served in part to construct the children of colonial and post-colonial immigrants as ‘a problem’, after mass immigration in the post-World War Two period. We then look at the educational experiences of minority ethnic group pupils/students, before looking at some ways that were adopted to address the problems, which we argue lay in the education system itself and not in the pupils/students. We conclude with some suggestions of how we might proceed in the new millennium.
At the outset, we would stress that the social, cultural and religious diversity of British society is not a new phenomenon. Britain is a multicultural society and always has been. This is exemplified by the separate existences of England, Scotland and Wales. It is also evidenced by settlement from Ireland and elsewhere in Europe, both far in the past and more recently.
Britain’s links with Africa and Asia are particularly longstanding. For example, there were Africans in Britain—slaves and ‘soldiers in the Roman imperial army that occupied the southern part of our island for three and a half centuries’ (Fryer, 1984, p. 1)—before the Anglo-Saxons (‘the English’) arrived. 2 There has been a long history of contact between Britain and India, with Indian links with Europe going back 10,000 years (Visram, 1986). Africans and Asians have been born in Britain from about the year 1505 (Fryer, 1984), 3 and their presence has been notable from this time on.
Our concern in this chapter, however, is with the era of imperialism and its immediate and longer-term aftermath. 4 In Chapter 3, Virdee and Cole argued that the origins of the welfare state cannot be understood without reference to imperialism and nationalism. The role assigned to mass schooling in maintaining the Empire was well expressed by Lord Rosebury, leader of the Liberal Imperialists: ‘An Empire such as ours requires as its first condition an imperial race, a race