Given the anti-migration rhetoric currently dominating the political discourse you’d be forgiven for believing that Britain has always existed in a state of perpetual ‘splendid isolation’. The truth is the British Isles geographically, economically, culturally and politically have always been a beacon for migrants both historically and contemporarily. Concomitantly Britain as a former imperial power has instigated and enforced migration in other parts of the world. One of the most critical examples of this was the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. For a brief overview of this world changing event the following video produced by The Economist should help:
The partition of India and Pakistan resulted in an estimated 15 million people being displaced with another 500,000 dying as a consequence of conflict. The speed with which Britain drew up partition plans and then subsequently withdrew has been cited as one cause for the violence. With ongoing civil unrest and political instability post-partition many people sought refuge by migrating to Britain. Following a war between East and West Pakistan in 1970-71, the result of which was the creation of Bangladesh, many Bangladeshis fled to Britain.
Astonishingly this globally significant event which resulted in unfathomable mass migration and interminable conflict is left relatively unexplored in UK museums. As part of our thematic collecting project (http://bit.ly/16WpOEz) I’ll be exploring Britain’s role in instigating such migration and how it has impacted on collections and communities in Manchester. Soon I’ll be shooting a short film which will examine the effect partition had on diversifying Greater Manchester.