Until the 1950s Britain was regarded as a cosmopolitan power and the core of a worldwide empire. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Britain should eventually have developed as a multi-cultural society based on a variety of ethnic groups from those areas which she had once colonised and a few she had not. This chapter focuses on the two main developments associated with this plural society. The first was the gradual build-up of substantial ethnic minorities through the process of immigration. And the second was the extent to which they harmonised with the existing population through the process of integration.
There were five main waves of immigration into Britain. The first was from Ireland-an almost continuous stream throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. The second occurred between 1880 and 1905, when an estimated 120,000 Jews fled to Britain from Russia, Romania and other parts of eastern Europe to escape persecution and the pogroms. The period of the Second World War saw the settlement of a similar number of Poles, who had been integrated into the British forces, including the RAF, to fight against Nazi Germany. During the 1950s by far the largest wave of immigrants arrived in Britain. This came from the Commonwealth, especially from the West Indies and the Indian sub-continent. Some immigrants from these areas were invited into the country by the British government, which was trying to offset a decline in the British workforce caused by the reduction in the average number of children per family from 3.37 in 1914 to 2.2 by 1939. 1 The labour shortage was felt especially in transport and the newly established National Health Service. Most public-sector jobs were less well paid than those in the private sector and the competition for labour in the