British Indian

Indians in the United Kingdom
(British Indians/Indian Britons)
Total population
United Kingdom United Kingdom 1,451,862 (2011)[1]England England 1,395,702 (2011)
Wales Wales 17,256 (2011)
Scotland Scotland 32,706 (2011)
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland 6,198 (2011)
2.3% of the UK's population (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups

British Indians (also Indian British people or Indian Britons) are citizens of the United Kingdom (UK) whose ancestral roots lie in India. This includes people born in the UK who are of Indian descent, and Indian-born people who have migrated to the UK. Today, Indians comprise about 1.4 million people in the UK (not including those of mixed Indian and other ancestry), making them the single largest visible ethnic minority population in the country. They make up the largest subgroup of British Asians, and are one of the largest Indian communities in the Indian diaspora, mainly due to the Indian-British relations (including historical links such as India having been under British colonial rule and still being part of the Commonwealth of Nations). The British Indian community is the sixth largest in the Indian diaspora, behind the Indian communities in the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Nepal. The largest group of British Indians are those of Punjabi origin, accounting for an estimated 45 percent of the British Indian population (based on data for England and Wales), followed by other communities including Gujarati, Malayali and Marathi communities.[2]

Official figures demonstrate that Indian employees have the highest average hourly rate among all ethnic groups in Britain. [3][4] A study in 2011 found British Indians have among the lowest poverty rates among all non-Caucasian ethnic groups in Britain.[5] Studies and official figures have shown that Indians are more likely to be employed in professional and managerial occupations, than all other ethnic groups, including White British people.[6][7]

18th–19th centuries

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[10] It is estimated 8,000 Indians (a proportion being lascar sailors) lived in Britain permanently prior to the 1950s.[11][12][13] 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.[14] 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,[15] Lascars lodged in British ports in between voyages.[16] 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.[17]