Study to probe how we ended up with the Windrush scandal

A team of researchers led by the University of London’s School of Advanced Study (SAS) has been funded to examine how UK immigration policy changed from what was officially an ‘open door’ to a regime which led to the Windrush Scandal.

Windrush generation
In the wake of the Second World War, a significant number of people arrived in the UK from the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Commonwealth.

The three-year Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) project will focus on the history of changes to immigration policy which led to the scandal.

SAS academic and lead researcher, Dr Juanita Cox, explained, 'A six-month scoping project on the Windrush generation and their relationship to the British State (1948–2018) funded by the University of London's Convocation Trust pointed to a longer history behind the hostile environment of detention, deportation and denial of citizenship. It highlighted too, a broader interplay between community activism and Caribbean diplomacy.

'The AHRC award provides us with a unique opportunity to study these strands of political, diplomatic, local and administrative history and to develop a unique digital research resource, which preserves the voices of the Windrush Generation.'

In the wake of the Second World War, a significant number of people arrived in the UK from the Caribbean and elsewhere in the Commonwealth. They had the right to enter and remain in Britain by virtue of being Citizens of the UK and Colonies (CUKC) or Commonwealth Citizens.

From 1962 onwards, however, successive legislation tightened the rules on immigration and citizenship. Cases arose in which those who were unable to document their status to the satisfaction of the authorities faced challenges to their right to remain in the UK.

From 2010 onwards, as Whitehall enforced a ‘hostile environment’ towards those suspected of being illegal immigrants, increasing numbers of Caribbean immigrants and their children, found themselves threatened with, or subjected to, detention and deportation.

In an important strategic partnership between SAS, the Black Cultural Archives (BCA) in Brixton and Queen Mary, University of London (QMUL), the new project seeks, for the first time, to explore this history from a fully transnational perspective.

Its key objective is to develop a unique digital research resource of extended interviews on the national and diplomatic activism around the Windrush scandal, supported by digitised government documents from the British and Caribbean archives.

It will produce 60 oral history interviews which will be available electronically, and a searchable database of existing oral history resources on the 'Windrush generation'. The materials produced by the project will explore the links between the apparently distinct spheres of international diplomacy and community activism. It will examine how the work of Caribbean diplomats supported the efforts of the victims of the Windrush scandal and their supporters in the UK.

A series of articles for the British Library's 'Windrush Stories' website will enable the team to demonstrate the relevance of our project materials to a range of researchers, activists and policymakers.

The two lead researchers on the project will be Dr Juanita Cox, the convenor of ‘Guyana speaks’ and a leading specialist on Caribbean diasporas in the UK, and Dr William Tantum, a former director of the SAS Centre for Integrated Caribbean Research.

Dr Juanita Cox, ICWS
Dr Juanita Cox, the convenor of ‘Guyana speaks’ and a leading specialist on Caribbean diasporas in the UK

They will be supported by the project’s principal investigator, Professor Philip Murphy (SAS), and the co-investigator, Dr Rob Waters (QMUL), author of the award-winning 2019 monograph Thinking Black: Britain, 1964–1985.

For further information, please contact Maureen McTaggart (maureen.mctaggart@sas.ac.uk), Media Communications Manager, School of Advanced Study, University of London.