James_Candler

Participation in the project: Proof-reader

Occupation: Retired

Hobbies: Reading, Cinema-going and Language-learning.

Reflective Log

I have learnt a lot by participating in this project. Obviously, I have honed my research and writing skills and acquired much factual information on the history of Chinese immigrants in Britain, but what I consider to be of greater significance are the affective changes and changes in attitude brought about, incidentally, by working collaboratively in a team towards a common goal. I was surprised by the international nature of the team (Polish, German, Italian, British born Chinese, Mainland Chinese etc.). It was gratifying to realise that such disparate nationalities were interested in the subject. Since some are immigrants themselves, I am sure they were able to bring their own histories and experiences to bear on the research and strengthen the team. There are common themes when one speaks about emigration and immigration. I found it an interesting experience to work cross-culturally and I am sure that I have developed my social skills in the process and I hope that this has been reciprocal. It may have been by chance but the project has been an object lesson in bringing together people of various nationalities.

I already knew in outline the history of Chinese immigration in Britain but reading their individual stories behind the statistics it brought to the forefront of my mind the hardships and tribulations that many immigrants have to endure. It bolstered my admiration for the resilience and hardiness of spirit of those people who seek a better life overseas and gives the lie to the perception that they are ‘benefit scroungers’. I could not but admire also their entrepreneurial spirit in seeking out niche markets whereby a lack of knowledge of the native tongue was not a barrier in making a living – laundry, catering, TCM etc. This, of course, is not unique to the Chinese. The Jewish refugees took to clothing manufacture, the Bengalis and Sylhetis also opened restaurants and East African Asians opened newsagents and corner-shops.

Another impression that was brought very much to my mind was just how much immigrants have added to the colour and variety of British cultural life. I think back to what food was like in the fifties in Britain. In London, at least, the variety of ethnic restaurants in mind-boggling.

I hope the fruits of this project will be of interest to the British in general and to the British-born Chinese in particular who may not know the history of their forebears. It is really only an examplar of immigration in general. The story could be repeated for other ethnic minorities – the Jews, various communities from the Indian sub-continent, the East African Asians, the West Indians, the Vietnamese etc.

As I intimated earlier, it was not just the facts gleaned from the project, but by being on the project, it has led me to rethink my attitudes and reinterpret and reflect upon what I, perhaps, already knew. I have gained a greater respect for immigrants irrespective of whence they came.