Posted by: Selina Todd | April 27, 2009

Ten Pound Poms

I’m currently in Australia – talking at various universities about the research that appears on this website, and using the time in between to write the book Hilary and I hope to publish about life in postwar Britain. While I’ve been here, I’ve heard a very different story to those featured on this website – the story of people who took the momentous decision to leave Britain as Ten Pound Poms between the 1940s and 1970s. Thousands made use of a scheme supported by the Australian government that offered free return passages for those Brits who agreed to remain in Australia for at least 2 years.

Al Thomson, one of the authors of the brilliant book Ten Pound Poms (Manchester University Press), says that those who left Britain had 2 major reasons for doing so – escaping poverty (especially those who left in the 1940s and early 1950s) and – by the 1960s – having an adventure.

Politicians’ talk of the ‘white working class’, or the ‘indigenous British’ forgets that immigration and emigration are a centuries-old part of Britain’s story – and that many ordinary British people have international networks of friends or family.  Thousands of people left Britain as Ten Pound Poms and this must have had a significant impact on the families and friends they left behind. Please share your experiences of that, or your experience of moving to Britain as a migrant from elsewhere, by getting in touch.

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