David Holland

Department: History

Job title/role: Wolfson Foundation Post-Graduate Researcher

Email: dholland1@sheffield.ac.uk

Current research: I am investigating the integration and lived-experience of non-white economic migrants to imperial Britain. The research covers the period from the First World War up until 1947 and the start of what is generally considered to be the period of mass New Commonwealth migration.

The roots of my research lie in my investigation of a previously unresearched settlement of British-Indian Muslims in the Sheffield area. The men began arriving in the West Riding towards the end of the First World War having previously been stokehold crew on British merchant steamships. Most of these men continued to shovel coal on their arrival, but rather than into the fireboxes of steamships, many fired the boilers and furnaces of the Sheffield area’s metal-working industries.

The research aims to provide a degree of historical perspective to current debates around the nature of migration, settlement, integration/assimilation, tolerance and ‘multiculturalism’. For instance, many of the couples displayed a pragmatic approach to culture and religion, with husband and wife freely adapting to, or adopting, the cultural and religious practices of their spouse. The native/newcomer couples also formed nodes on trans-imperial social networks which both facilitated further kinship-based migration from India. Moreover, the couples appear to have been the ‘bridgeheads’ which enabled the rapid take-off of mass migration after the Second World War.