People from India have settled in Great Britain since the East India Company (EIC) recruited lascars to replace vacancies in their crews on East Indiamen whilst on voyages in India. Initially these were men from the Indo-Portuguese or Luso-Asian communities of the subcontinent, including men from Bombay, Goa, Cochin, Madras and the Hugli River in Bengal. Later Muslim Bengalis and men from Ratnagiri were hired. Many were then refused passage back and had no alternative than to settle in London. There were also some ayahs, domestic servants and nannies of wealthy British families, who accompanied their employers back to Britain when their stay in South Asia came to an end. British soldiers would also sometimes marry Indian women and send their mixed race children back to Britain, although the wife often did not accompany them. Indian wives of British soldiers would sometimes ask for passage home after being abandoned or widowed if they did accompany their children. In 1835, Bridget Peter a native of the Madras region lost her husband, a British soldier serving in His Majesty's 1st Foot Regiment. She petitioned the Directors from Chelsea Hospital 'in a state of destitution'. They paid to return her and her three children to India.
The Navigation Act of 1660 restricted the employment of non-English sailors to a quarter of the crew on returning East India Company ships. Baptism records in East Greenwich suggest that a small number of young Indians from the Malabar Coast were being recruited as house servants at the end of the 17th century, and records of the EIC also suggest that Indo-Portuguese cooks from Goa were retained by captains from voyage to voyage. In 1797, 13 were buried in the parish of St Nicholas at Deptford.
During the 19th century, the East India Company brought thousands of Indian lascars, scholars and workers (who were largely Bengali and/or Muslim) to Britain largely to work on ships and in ports. Some of whom settled down and took local British wives, partly due to a lack of Indian women in Britain and also abandonment due to restrictions on South Asian crew members being employed on British ships such as the Navigation Acts. It is estimated 8,000 Indians (a proportion being lascar sailors) lived in Britain permanently prior to the 1950s. Due to the majority of early Asian immigrants being lascar seamen, the earliest Indian communities were found in port towns. Naval cooks also came, many of them from the Sylhet Division of what is now Bangladesh. One of the most famous early Bengali immigrants to Britain was Sake Dean Mahomet, a captain of the British East India Company. In 1810, he founded London's first Indian restaurant, the Hindoostanee Coffee House. He is also valued for introducing shampoo and therapeutic massage to the United Kingdom. By the mid-19th century, there were more than 40,000 Indian seamen, diplomats, scholars, soldiers, officials, tourists, businessmen and students in Britain, the majority of them being seamen working on ships, Lascars lodged in British ports in between voyages. Most Indians during this period would visit or reside in Britain temporarily, returning to India after months or several years, bringing back knowledge about Britain in the process.