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The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs [Illustrated] [Hardcover]

Peter Bance
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
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Book Description

25 Nov 2011
This is the fascinating history of the Sikhs and their contribution to British society from the mid nineteenth century to the present day. With over 250 historical photographs, the majority of them drawn from private collections, the author tells the story of the Sikhs from the first arrival in this country to modern times. The Sikhs were the first community to migrate in large numbers to Britain from the Asian sub-continent. There were four major periods of mass migration 1930s, post-war, 1960s and 1970s and Peter Bance describes stories of individuals, capturing their struggles and successes. We see makeshift places of worship in the early years, the golden days of glory as maharajahs visited British royalty and nobility, convalescing Sikh Soldiers, as well as portraits of marriages, social life and employment, integration and religion. While the initial Sikh migration was male-dominated, as families were left behind while the men established themselves, later photographs show women and children in the flourishing Indian communities of Britain. Sikhs have since continued to make an impact, and here we witness an array of distinguished personalities, whether migrant or born and bred in Britain. From a tartan clad Lord Sikh in a Scottish castle and a veteran record-breaking Adidas-sponsored marathon man to an aspiring international England cricket star. Sikhs have been one of the most successful migrant races to settle into, and contribute to, British society. The book is fabulously illustrated with over 250 colour and sepia images on high quality art paper.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Coronet House Publishing Ltd; New edition edition (25 Nov 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0956127029
  • ISBN-13: 978-0956127020
  • Product Dimensions: 26.4 x 25 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 163,787 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Since the arrival of Maharajah Duleep Singh in 1854, Sikhs have continued to make a memorable impression on British life. The first record of an Indian in Britain was of a native brought over by the East India Company in August 1614 and baptised by the Archbishop of Canterbury as Petrus Papa (Peter Pope). It was not until 240 years later that the first recorded Sikh arrived, under strikingly different circumstances. He was the Maharajah Duleep Singh, the son of the last independent ruler of Punjab, deposed as a boy by the British, brought up as a Christian and introduced to Queen Victoria. Today there are more than 700,000 Sikhs in Britain, working in every trade and profession and playing an increasingly prominent part in British public life. In the past 150 years Sikhs have fought for Britain in two world wars, established communities in towns as distant as Londonderry and Aberdeen, fought local and national elections, set up thriving businesses, won awards and opened gurdwaras, traditional Sikh centres for prayer, shelter and communal dining, across the country. A new book documenting this prosperous and influential community from the subcontinent shows how far Sikhs have come in integrating into British life but also how faithful they have remained to their customs, turbans and religious tenets. Peter Bance, a Sikh historian who has published extensively on the Duleep Singh story and Sikh military traditions, traces the community to four main waves of immigration: those who came before or during the First World War, those who arrived in the interwar years, the influx after 1947 of labourers filling the shortages in the British market and the wave of middle-class shopkeepers who were driven out of Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. In the early days Sikhs stood out in Britain: their looks and clothes were unfamiliar, discrimination was rife, they found it hard to get lodgings and many were forced to cluster together in Indian lodging houses, with often as many as 20 males only living in a small East End house. Then, and also between the wars, most Sikhs were unable to find jobs except as itinerant pedlars. Early Sikh communities were close-knit and usually held together by the gurdwaras. The first such centre was established in Shepherds Bush, West London, more than a century ago with the help and support of the prominent Sikh philanthropist Maharajah Bhupinder Singh. It became the focal point for Sikhs in London. Numbers swelled considerably with the outbreak of the First World War, as Sikhs joined the British Army in their thousands. Their martial tradition impressed British army officers, and those who fell were accorded full Sikh funeral rites. Special hospitals were set up in Britain to cater for Sikh wounded, a slaughterhouse was established in Brighton to cater for the religious rites of Sikhs as well as Hindus and Muslims, and Sikhs had their own training camps and military parades. In all more than 64,000 Indian troops lost their lives in the First World War and more than 12,000 won awards for bravery, including 12 Victoria Crosses. By the end of the war no fewer than 100,000 Sikhs had participated. They were given special dispensation to be allowed not to wear steel helmets and keep their turbans an exception that 40 years later was the subject of a bitter and hard-fought campaign in Manchester when Sikh immigrants working on the buses refused to remove their turbans and wear regulation caps. Symbolically, the Prince of Wales unveiled a statue of Maharajah Duleep Singh on his horse in Thetford in 1999 to commemorate the centenary of his death. Ten years later two Sikhs in the British Army made news when they were posted at Buckingham Palace. Peter Bance s book documents the rise of a community, once an implacable foe of British rule in India, that is now very much at home in Britain. --The Times, Michael Binyon, 14/01/2012

The adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, very aptly describes Peter (Bhupinder Singh) Bance s, The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs. The book is a visual celebration and stunning photo essay of Sikhs in Britain - from the arrival of the first permanent Sikh resident, Maharaja Duleep Singh in 1854 to the present-day Maharaja of the Marathon, the centenarian Fauja Singh. Between these two milestones are 150 years of photographs and illustrations, many from private collections and never seen before, that capture the many faces and reflections of Sikh life in Britain. It makes for a fascinating journey. It is designed to be a coffee table book - and it is quite exquisite indeed. But unlike any other, it offers more than just a visual treat. Coffee table books like The Sikhs in Britain, unlike their library or bookshelf counterparts, are often thought of as no more than an adornment, an object of art and decoration, to be seen but not read. Peter Bance breaks that mold. The front cover is an imaginative juxtaposition of pictures of Sikhs over an image of the Union Jack. The choice of the first two pictures in the book complement the cover and caught my attention. The message is clear: being British and being Sikh are not mutually exclusive. The book consists of nine chapters, an introduction, a long list of obligatory acknowledgements and a foreword - two, in this case, one by the Maharaja of Patiala and the other by the film maker, Gurinder Chadha. A time line, a glossary and even a bibliography round out the 186-page volume. Sikhs in Britain are a thriving presence. But their distinct identity and their success evokes, in certain quarters, envy, prejudice and even hostility. The similarity with the Jews is not lost on the author. It is no accident, he states, that the first Sikh immigrants to Britain in the 1920 s followed the pattern of the Jewish community by engaging in the peddling trade, bought their supplies from Jewish wholesalers and resided in the Jewish East End of London. The author identifies four significant waves of Sikh migration to Britain, starting between the two world wars, followed by the second, after Indian Independence in 1947, and the third and largest in the 1960 s, concluding with a fourth, in the 1970 s, consisting mainly of East African Sikhs. Some pictures from the two World Wars will ring familiar with readers as they will recognize some faces. Among others, they depict Hardit Singh Malik, Mohinder Singh Pujji and Manmohan Singh, all well-known war heroes. Indeed, instead of the handwringing I witness these days, this is the spirit that we should inculcate in our kids. No history of the Sikhs in Britain would be complete without mention, or pictures in this case, of the Sikh exodus from East Africa in the 60 s and 70 and the fight for preservation of the Sikh identity, especially the wearing of a turban in government jobs. The appearance of color pictures in the last chapter, titled The 80 s to The Present, reflects not just advancements in photography, but also the coming of age of a community. Sikhs everywhere have made an impact out of proportion to their numbers. In Britain, their presence in every walk of life is reflected in these pictures: there is Prince Charles, obviously at home around Sikh-Britons; Sikh exhibits at the Victoria and Albert Museum; Lord Indarjit Singh posing with the Queen and figures like Fauja Singh and Monty Panesar. Sikhs are rightfully proud of their past but the past, like pictures, is silent until evoked and described. We Sikhs are not much given to recording and preserving history. Peter Bance has done just that and deserves our thanks for this exquisite labor of love. --www.SikhChic.com

A new book, Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photography by Peter Bance, traces the history of the vibrant Sikh community in Britain over the last 150 years, says Shrabani Basu. In 1973, a 55-year-old turbaned Sikh from Manchester bought himself a moped. Not that Giani Sundar Singh Sagar had got a sudden urge to ride one he just wanted to make a point. The British government had ruled that Sikhs who did not wear helmets while riding two-wheelers would be fined, leading to an outcry in the Sikh community. The protests quickly came to be known as the Turban-Helmet case. Almost four decades later, the story of Sundar Singh and the Manchester helmet protest is recounted in a new book Sikhs in Britain, 150 Years of Photography by Peter Bance. The book traces the history of the vibrant Sikh community in Britain over the last 150 years. Sundar Singh s campaign is now a part of ethnic lore. He rode his moped without a helmet, was repeatedly fined by the police, and then finally sentenced to seven days imprisonment. On the day of his release the national and local media crowded outside the prison gates, along with the Manchester Sikh community and supporters of the National Turban Action Committee. Predictably, Sundar Singh had wanted to leave prison on his moped and his sons had brought it along. As the respected Sikh with the long-flowing white beard emerged from prison, he was garlanded with flowers. Then with the police watching him, he mounted his moped again. The gathered Sikhs cheered and walked alongside and photographers ran along the pavement. Sundar Singh was booked seven times on his ride home that day. I think it is important that the present generation knows the history of the early migrants, and knows how their elders found their feet here, their struggles, their successes and hardships, says Bance, who is himself a Sikh. It is an important part of British migrant history. The first recorded Sikh arrived in the British port of Southampton in 1854. It was none other than Maharaja Duleep Singh, the last ruler of Punjab. When the British annexed Punjab in 1848. Bance traces the story of the Sikh immigrant in Britain in four main waves: those who came before or during World War I, those who arrived in the inter-war years, the post-Independence influx when Sikhs came as labourers to fill the factories which desperately needed workers, and the fourth wave of immigration when Idi Amin expelled Indians from Uganda in 1972. The first Sikh gurdwara was established over a century ago in Shepherd s Bush in West London, with the help of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh. Called the Maharaja Bhupinder Singh Dharamshala, it became the focal point for Sikhs in London and often their first port of call for lodging. World War I saw Sikhs joining the British Army in the thousands. By the end of the war, at least 1,00,000 Sikhs had participated in it. The inter-war years saw wealthy Sikhs, including journalist and author Khushwant Singh coming to Britain for higher studies. Khushwant Singh studied law at King s College and qualified as a barrister from the Inner Temple. Other Sikhs worked as tradesmen and peddlers. The door-to-door Sikh salesmen would always dress smartly in suits and ties so they could impress their white customers not used to seeing a turbaned man at their door. World War II once again saw Sikhs volunteering with many winning Victoria Crosses. Princess Indira of Kapurthala famously drove ambulances during the war and broadcast for the BBC. The Sikhs were also involved in India s freedom movement. In 1940 Udham Singh shot Sir Michael Dwyer in London s Caxton Hall. He was arrested, tried and hanged. In 1947, Sikhs marched to 10 Downing Street in protest against the Partition of India... --The Telegraph, by Shrabani Basu

About the Author

PETER BANCE, is an independent researcher and Sikh historian. He is the author of numerous books on Anglo-Sikh history, specialising on the last Sikh King, Maharajah Duleep Singh, the subject of his very first book. He was nominated as a Sikh Achiever of the Year, and honoured and awarded at Toronto's Centennial Foundation for his work. An authority on the last sovereign of the Punjab, Peter Bance has contributed to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and appeared in documentaries on the subject for BBC1's Inside Out and BBC2's Desi DNA programmes, in addition to Granada TV and The History Channel.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant 23 April 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Brilliant. I have been wanting this book for some time and now I have finally got it at a great price!
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4.0 out of 5 stars Sikh history in words and photo's 31 Dec 2012
By Liz
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I bought this for my family as my husband was brought up in a Sikh family in Britain and I felt it would add to our children's knowledge of their family history. The book is quite detailed in it's description of life for the early immigrants and tells of the many struggles they had to make a life for themselves in a new country. The photos are amazing and I'm sure many who read the book will find their relatives photo in it somewhere. We did. Enjoy.
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I bought this book for my brother-in-law (a Sardar) for Christmas and he absolutely loved it, as did the whole family who all spent time reading it on Christmas day. Highly recommended for anyone interested in the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Omnipresent Khalsa 19 Feb 2012
By Pilot H
A very informative book. Every Punjabi living in Eglistan should have access to this book.If not at home then through Gurdawara Libraries.
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