The idea that British identity and culture is threatened by non-white migration has been a recurring theme in British politics. The post-war period saw waves of migration under the British Nationality Act (1948) which gave automatic British citizenship to citizens of any colony or dominion in the British Empire.
By the late 1960s, Black and Asian communities had formed in areas such as Southall, Brixton, Bradford and Leicester. Subsequent efforts were then made by Labour and Conservative governments to reduce immigration through the Commonwealth Immigrant Acts (1964 and 1968) and the Immigration Act (1971).
Alongside these restrictions, groups such as the National Front (NF) increasingly alleged a threat to British life and culture. For the NF, the advent of a multicultural Britain questioned the relationship between ethnicity, identity and Britishness.
This ‘crisis of Britishness’ surrounding immigration and national identity shows no signs of diminishing in 2024. From the waves of Commonwealth migration in the post-war period to the Refugee Crisis in 2015, Britain’s relationship with race and nation has been marked by fragility.
In this context, this exhibition highlights far-right nationalist rhetoric and the anti-fascist, anti-racist responses that followed. Using items from our unique archive it highlights the struggle over immigration, race and nation in Britain from the 1970 – 90s.