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Migration, settlement and activities of new communities

Grace Quansah at the 2014 Huntley Conference

Grace Quansah at the 2014 Huntley Conference

London as a centre for migration​

London has long been a centre for migration of people from across the world. The histories of these communities are increasingly well documented through collections at London Metropolitan Archives (LMA). Information about diverse communities can be found in parish registers. 

These provide evidence of black and Asian people who settled in London from the 16th century, while court records such as sessions papers from the 18th century document gay and lesbian presence. Further sources can be found in local authority records such as those of the Greater London Council and Inner London Education Authority. These concern the impact of communities arriving in London, anti-racism policies (including support for the anti-apartheid movement) and community grants awarded in the 1980s. Relevant records can also be found within records of associations such as the London Council of Social Service.

Jewish community

The Jewish community and its influence world-wide are well represented in the collections. Archives of major nationwide Jewish organisations are held alongside those of many schools, synagogues and charities working for London's local Jewish population.

Records of large institutions including the Office for the Chief Rabbi, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and Beth Din (court of the Chief Rabbi) are held alongside international welfare organisations such as World Jewish Relief. Jewish education is covered by key school collections such as Jews' Free School.

Charities range from Jewish Memorial Council and Maccabi Great Britain (for clubs and sports), to the Soup Kitchen for the Jewish Poor in Stepney. Religious congregations for most branches of Judaism are documented. The earliest records from 1650 are those of the Sephardi congregation (Jews from Spain and Portugal) which can be found in the archives of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews' Congregation. Congregational records include those of the Bevis Marks Synagogue (opened 1702), England’s oldest working synagogue in the heart of the City of London.

Black and Caribbean community

LMA has received a number of key black and Caribbean community archives, which began with the acquisition in 2005 of the archives of Eric and Jessica Huntley and their business Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications Limited, black publishers and booksellers of Ealing. Originally from Guyana, the Huntleys founded Bogle-L'Ouverture Publications Limited in reaction to the ban of their friend Dr Walter Rodney, academic and political activist, from Jamaica in 1968. The business was used to publish important post-colonial texts by Rodney including 'The Groundings with my Brother' and 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa'.

The Huntley archives document the publishing business (including authors' files and manuscripts) and political, educational, community and family activities. These archives are annually showcased through conferences held in February organised by the Friends of the Huntley Archives at LMA (formerly Huntley Archives Advisory Group). Also held are records of the Caribbean Parents Group, Clapton Youth Centre, Hansib Publications Limited (black and Asian publishers), Lionel and Pansy Jeffrey, Sybil Phoenix MBE, Dr Petronella Breinburg, and Willis Wilkie (education and community leaders).

Chinese community

Oral history recordings from the Chinese community are complemented by personal and organisational records, including Samuel Chinque, revolutionary activist and founder of Xinhua news agency, and Islington Chinese Association collected by Chinese National Healthy Living Centre as part of Heritage Lottery Funded project 'Footprints of the Dragon'.

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community

The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community collections include papers of Peter Tatchell, campaigner, Lesbian London news publication collective, and the Black LGBT Cultural Archive collected by rukus! Federation Limited.

Other communities

For other communities there are records of the Muslim Women's Helpline, and others will be represented through collections developing through new acquisitions.

Guides and sources

Cities: Local Communities [LMA reference: ILEA/VID/01/2629]
This 1973 film explores local London communities, in particular, the impact of social, cultural and ethnic differences within Brixton and Dulwich Village. This film is available in the Mediatheque at LMA.

Related articles

Useful links

  • The Moving Here website has a vast array of information about immigration, including data from the LMA collections.
  • The LMA Learning Zone website has details of the Black and Asian Londoners Project.
  • The Old Bailey online website has details of communities and settlement in London. 
28 March 2012
Last Modified:
29 September 2017