Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The Racial Transformation of Britain

How Enoch Powell’s warnings went unheeded

by Richard Lynn

During the closing decades of the twentieth century the large-scale immigration of Hispanics, Asians and blacks made the United States an increasingly multiracial society. However, this transformation has not taken place only in America. This strange process of self-effacement has also taken place in Canada, Australia and throughout Western Europe — particularly in Britain.

There have been small numbers of non-whites in Britain for hundreds of years. Blacks first appeared towards the end of the sixteenth century following the beginning of the slave trade in 1563. English slavers picked up blacks from West Africa for transport to the Caribbean and America, and brought a few back to England. They acquired such a bad reputation that in 1596 Queen Elizabeth wrote to mayors and sheriffs throughout the country saying there were “already too many here” and should all be expelled. The Queen must not have been completely obeyed because five years later she issued another proclamation requiring that the “said kind of people should be with all speed avoided and discharged out of this Her Majesty’s dominions.”

Despite such decrees, a few blacks continued to be brought to England to work as servants. Several hundred runaway American slaves came to England after the end of the American Revolutionary War. According to Peter Fryer’s Staying Power: a History of Blacks in Britain, many became beggars on the streets of London. The government considered them a serious social problem, and set up a plan to resettle them in Sierra Leone. Three hundred fifty were actually sent there. By the beginning of the twentieth century there were very few blacks in Britain and the only significant black communities were in the ports of Liverpool and Cardiff. In 1919 there were serious race riots in both cities.

It was after the end of the Second World War that large numbers of blacks and other non-Europeans settled in Britain. The process began with the British Nationality Act passed in 1948 by Clement Atlee’s Labour Government. This act conferred British citizenship on the people of the British colonies and gave them the right to enter, settle, and work in Britain. At that time the colonies consisted of India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, much of Africa, most of the Caribbean, and a number of other smaller territories. The act gave similar rights of entry and residence to citizens of the British Commonwealth, consisting of Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Thus the act covered many hundreds of millions of people, most of whom were not white.

Why did Parliament pass such a law? British historian Andrew Roberts wrote in his 1994 book, Eminent Churchillians, that it probably reflected gratitude towards the Commonwealth nations that had supported Britain during the war against Germany. He writes that the law was “drawn up at the height of enthusiasm for the concept of ‘Commonwealth’ … all political parties embraced the ‘Commonwealth ideal’ with a fervour and naiveté which may seem absurd today.” He also points out that the act was a kind of afterthought that actually reflected an “absence of policy.”

Just as was the case with the watershed 1965 immigration reform in the United States, hardly anyone pointed out what might happen if huge numbers of non-European people actually came. One of the few to raise this question was a young Conservative Member of Parliament named Enoch Powell, but government spokesmen and senior members of his own party assured him that very few would actually arrive in Britain.

These reassurances were ill-founded. In May, 1948, within a few weeks of the act becoming law, the first boatload of blacks arrived from Jamaica. They were to be followed by many more from the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and by lesser numbers from Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

In the 1950s quite large numbers of blacks and Indians were entering and settling in Britain, and towards the end of the decade it was becoming apparent that while Indian immigrants adapted to life in Britain, blacks did not. One problem was that many whites didn’t like them. It was common, for example, for advertisements for rental property to specify “No Blacks,” though this was later made illegal. Other events that called attention to blacks were the 1958 race riots in which blacks looted and burned shops in the Notting Hill district of London and in the city of Nottingham.

Following the riots a few Conservative politicians began to voice disquiet about the presence and continuing immigration of blacks. One of these was Lord Salisbury, who said he was “extremely apprehensive of the economic and social results, for Europeans and for Africans alike, that were likely to result from an unrestricted immigration of men and women of the African race into Britain.”

The Times of September 3, 1958, reported that whites resented blacks because “they are alleged to do no work and to collect a rich sum from the assistance board” and “they are charged with all kinds of misbehavior, especially sexual.” Later research was to show that these perceptions had an element of truth in so far as blacks were found to have about twice the level of unemployment of whites, about six times the level of crime, and high rates of illegitimacy.

By 1961 it was estimated that there were in Britain approximately 210,000 blacks from the Caribbean and 122,000 Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis from the Indian sub-Continent. The Conservative government of the day, led by Harold Macmillan, decided it was time for immigration to stop. In 1962 it passed the Commonwealth Immigration Act, which removed the right of entry to Britain of citizens of the Colonies and Commonwealth, except for parents, spouses and children of those already in the country, and for those hired for jobs no British citizen was capable of doing. In 1963 the government issued 30,130 such employment vouchers but this number gradually declined to 2,290 in 1972.

Rivers of Blood

The Labour Party bitterly opposed the 1962 act, but it realized that the majority of the population did not like immigration, and did not repeal the act when it came to power in 1964. Nevertheless, though the intention of the 1962 act was to end immigration into Britain, it soon became apparent that it was continuing at a great rate. In 1968 Enoch Powell decided it was time to raise the issue publicly.

By then a leading Conservative politician, Powell had been a brilliant classical student at Cambridge, became professor of Greek at the University of Sydney at the age of 26, and had served in the Second World War with distinction. He had been a cabinet member in Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government and was a member of the Conservative shadow cabinet when the Conservatives went into opposition in 1964.

His much-publicized address has become known as the “rivers of blood” speech because of what Powell said about the tensions continued immigration would bring: “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding. Like the Roman, I seem to see the river Tiber foaming with much blood.” The classical allusion was to a passage in Vergil’s Aeneid in which Aeneas hears a prophecy that when he returns to Italy there will be war and “foaming blood” in the Tiber. It was to prove a more arresting phrase than Powell seems to have realized, and he said later he wished he had given the quotation in Latin.

In the speech, Powell cited the social problems caused by blacks in the United States as a warning of what would happen in Britain: “The tragic and intractable phenomenon which we watch in horror on the other side of the Atlantic, which is there interwoven with the history and existence of the States itself, is coming to us here by our own volition and our own neglect.”

He continued by quoting an aphorism from classical Greece: “Those whom the gods seek to destroy, they first make mad,” and continued, “We must be mad, literally mad, as a nation to be permitting the annual inflow of some 50,000 dependents, who are for the most part the material of the future growth of the immigrant-descended population. It is like watching a nation busily engaged in building up its own funeral pyre.” He called for repatriation as the only solution to the problem.

An opinion poll carried out shortly after the speech showed that 74 percent of the population agreed with Powell, but the government ignored their wishes and immigration continued. The 1991 census found that the number of blacks had risen more than fourfold since 1961 to approximately 900,000 (1.6 percent of the population), while South Asians (Indians, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis) had increased more than tenfold to approximately 1,500,000 (2.7 percent of the population). There were also approximately 650,000 Chinese (1.25 percent of the population), but these figures were all underestimates because many immigrants, particularly illegals, do not fill in census forms and go uncounted.

Post-war immigrants have always congregated in the major cities. A survey carried out in 1999 found that approximately one third of school children in London do not speak English at home. Probably about another third are English-speaking blacks and Asians. When these non-whites become adults they will outnumber whites, just as they do in most big cities in the United States.

Why did the 1962 act fail to halt the rise in the number of non-whites? First, immigrants are mainly young adults who soon have children, and they tend to have more children than whites. Many enter illegally or as legal tourists who never go home. Some enter as spouses, and many enter as a result of arranged marriages.

There have been press reports of young Asian women, legally resident in Britain, who are taken to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh and forced into marriage so their husbands could come to Britain. Others enter as asylum seekers — with 70,000 heads of household entering in 1999 alone. Claims for asylum have to be examined, which takes about 18 months. If the claim is refused the asylum seeker has the right to appeal. If the appeal is refused the claimant is generally allowed to stay anyway, or else by this time has disappeared into the underground economy. By early 2000 there was a backlog of 102,000 asylum seekers waiting for their cases to be heard, which can take several years.

Powell was right about the continuation of racial conflict. In 1980 blacks rioted in Bristol and in 1981 in the London district of Brixton and the Toxteth district of Liverpool. In 1985 there were race riots in the Hansworth district of Birmingham and again in London. Racial attacks are frequent.

Thus, despite its resonance with the population at large, Powell’s 1968 speech had little practical effect. Most of the media and even many leading conservatives denounced the speech. Edward Heath promptly dismissed Powell from the shadow cabinet, and in 1974 Powell resigned from the Conservative Party over the issue of the European Community, which he opposed.

He continued to make speeches predicting further growth of the immigrant population, the rise of racial tensions, and the need to repatriate immigrants. In 1988 he reiterated his warnings: “I cannot foresee how a country can be peaceably governed in which the composition of the population is progressively going to change, in the way that the population of great parts of England is certainly going to change. I am talking about violence that can only be described as civil war. I cannot see there can be any other outcome.” Enoch Powell died on February 8, 1998, aged 86. At his funeral service a few members of the public left wreaths. One bore a card that read, “You were right, Enoch.”

How the Races Adjust

In 1976 Powell observed that blacks in Britain had a high rate of crime and were particularly involved in mugging, a word which, he said, was “used by one part of the divided society to describe its treatment at the hands of the other.” Apart from this, he did not have much to say about the degree to which different groups of immigrants have adjusted to life in Britain. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that blacks, Indians, Chinese and Pakistanis together with Bangladeshis have adjusted quite differently. Statistics for some of the major studies on this issue are summarized in the table on this page. 

Date Whites Blacks Indians Pak/Ban Chinese








Unemployed %





Men in Prison %





Adults Married %






Single Teenaged
Mothers %






Blacks do poorly. A study published in 1970 showed that black children were about three and a half times overrepresented in schools for the educationally subnormal (ESN), but this was not the case for either Indian or Pakistani children. Later in the 1970s the problem of the poor performance of black children in school became so widespread that the Government set up a committee to investigate its causes.

In 1984 the committee published a report that included a paper by Nicholas Mackintosh, professor of psychology at the University of Cambridge, and his colleague Nicholas Mascie-Taylor, in which they concluded that the problem was that the average IQ of black children was 88 and that of Indians and Pakistanis 98, in relation to a white average of 100. This report — astoundingly candid for a government document — was tucked away in an appendix and has been consistently ignored.

It has also been found in Britain that blacks have high levels of male unemployment, crime, and single teenage motherhood, and are averse to marriage. Indians and Chinese have adjusted well and perform about equally with whites in these respects. Pakistanis and Bang-ladeshis have adjusted less well, probably because many of them have not yet learned English. These racial differences are similar to those in the United States, where blacks are the principal problem group while Asians are “the model minority.” Behavior of this kind has a strong genetic basis, so the same differences show up in all environments.

Even successful immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and China often retain their cultural and religious identities. Significant numbers from the subcontinent are Muslims, whose primary loyalty is to Islam. Although they do not have problems of high crime, unemployment, low IQ, and illegitimacy as blacks do, their presence in large numbers changes the fabric of society and tends to undermine and displace traditional British culture.

Powell’s Failure

One could draw pessimistic conclusions from the history of immigration to Britain in the second half of the century. Unlike in other Western countries, a senior mainstream politician — Enoch Powell — spoke out against non-European immigration in a forthright way and never backed down. Despite the support of the great majority of the population, Powell’s warnings had no effect and the number of immigrants has continued to increase, just as he predicted.

Does this suggest that continued immigration is probably unstoppable in liberal western democracies? It is now widely predicted in the United States that whites will become a minority of the population in the second half of the twenty-first century. The same transformation is possible for Britain though the timetable for such a change is difficult to predict.

It is possible to make projections based on the increase of non-Europeans from 1962 to 1991. In spite of strict immigration controls, the rise was from approximately a third of a million in 1961 to 3 million in 1991. This is almost a tenfold gain over a thirty-year period.

Even if the growth rate of the non-European immigrant population slows, it will inevitably be substantially greater than that of whites because of its young age structure, its high fertility, and the continued arrival of dependents, illegals and asylum seekers. The 1991 census showed that while non-European immigrants were 5.5 per cent of the population, they amounted to 9.3 percent of the children through age nine.

David Coleman, one of Britain’s leading demographers, has estimated that in the 1990s the non-European proportion of the population was growing at about 5 percent a year, which doubles the numbers every 14 years. If this is projected forward, the number of non-Europeans can be expected to increase to around 48 million by the middle of the 21st century and would roughly equal the number of whites.

A more optimistic scenario proposed by Dr. Coleman is that the fertility of non-Europeans will fall to that of whites and that immigration will be held at around 32,000 net intake a year. On these assumptions, the non-European population will approximately double to around 6 million (11 per cent of the population) by the year 2177 and will continue to grow at about the same rate thereafter. The major unknown in these estimates is whether the government will take action to curtail the number of non-European immigrants.

Europeans are beginning to wake up to the threat mass immigration poses to their societies. This year the Freedom Party entered government in Austria and the will to maintain sanctions against it appears to be crumbling. In April, an anti-immigration coalition in Italy showed dramatic gains in local elections.

The increasing appeal of nationalist parties in other European countries is another sign of opposition to immigration and to the social tensions it invariably brings. It is true that the failure of Enoch Powell’s campaign shows that the political difficulties in restricting immigration are formidable but Powell himself would have looked forward to eventual success.

As he once explained: “Too often today people are ready to tell us ‘This is not possible, that is not possible.’ I say, whatever the true interest of our country calls for is always possible. We have nothing to fear but our own doubts.”

Richard Lynn is Professor Emeritus of Psychology of the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland.