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Coming to Britain


All our ancestors were immigrants

Over the centuries, Britain has received many waves of immigrants. Many were treated with fear or contempt when they arrived. Eventually, however, most have been assimilated and have made a contribution to our culture and way of life. This section looks at why and how they came, and the reception they received.

All our ancestors were immigrants

All our ancestors must have been immigrants at one time or another. History allows us to record the arrival of Romans across the English Channel. Before them the Celts must have arrived by sea. After the Romans left, came the Danes, Angles, Saxons and Jutes across the North Sea. Lastly, the Normans arrived again across the Channel. Initially, these were considered invasions, intent on occupying major portions of the country. Invasion was inevitably followed by peaceful settlement achieved through immigration.

Since 1066, arrival of migrants has been more peaceful. Examples include the Huguenots, who were driven out of Catholic France in two waves of persecution (1570s - 80s and 1680s - 90s) because of their Protestant religion. Their skills as weavers and silversmiths meant they established themselves in business. In Southampton, a French-speaking community of Walloons (from the area now across north-east France and Belgium) settled; the records of their church (St Julien`s) date from 1567.

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