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The Sikhs in Britain: 150 Years of Photographs Hardcover – 19 Apr 2007
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The Sikhs were the first race to migrate in large numbers from the Asian sub-continent to Britain. During three major periods of mass migration - 1900, 1950s and 1970s - tradesmen, servants, nobility and peddlars settled in this small island. Peter Bance's new and fascinating book is a lavishly illustrated portrayal of the social history of the Sikhs in Britain and their contribution to British society. He captures their struggles and successes through the stories of individuals; from early Sikh immigrants and labourers brought over on colonial ships by wealthy nabobs to travelling salesmen at the turn of the century, from rich visiting maharajahs to the modern Sikhs of today. The photographs, many of which are drawn from private collections, show makeshift places of worship in the early days, the golden days of glory as maharajahs visited British royalty, Sikhs based in Britain serving in the military, as well as portraits of marriages, social life, employment and religion. Many Sikhs integrated fully into their new society: joining the Suffragettes, setting up businesses, or sharing the local passion for cricket.This book, written by a leading specialist in Anglo-Sikh history, reveals the importance of the contribution of the Sikhs to Britain.
About the Author
Peter Bance is an independent researcher, specialising in Anglo-Sikh history. His first book was Maharajah Duleep Singh (Sutton, 2004) and he also wrote the entry for Maharani Jindan for the New Dictionary of National Biography. He is a consultant for a film about the Maharajah Duleep Singh, in production with Miramax, and directed by Gurinder Chadha, and was nominated as a Sikh Achiever of the Year in 2004.
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Bhupinder "Peter" Singh Bance charts the history of Sikhs in Britain, from the time of the British Raj of India to Monty Panesar becoming the first Sikh to play cricket for England. The first section relates to early Sikh visitors to England and in particular Maharaja Duleep Singh and his family (the subject of a separate book by the same author).
These are followed by pictures of Sikh Maharajas in all their splendour visiting the UK from India as guests of the Queen. The section on Sikhs in the World Wars includes many rare pictures including a few taken in mainland Europe. A memorable picture shows wounded soldiers in turbans at the infirmary at Brighton Pavilion.
The picture from the 1928 Armistice day ceremony at the Cenotaph in London shows The Maharaja of Patiala with King George V and the Prince of Wales. This contrasts with the modern day ceremony where a Sikh representative does now attend the ceremony along side other religious leaders.
The bulk of the pictures are of Sikhs who arrived in the UK after Indian Independence and it is these pictures of everyday Sikhs who came to Britain to work or begin a new life that are most fascinating. Life for these early settlers was full of challenges to say the least. Peter Bance has managed to portray the mood with a mixture of pictures illustrating both the pioneering nature of these young men and pictures showing the hardship they must have suffered. Pictures of early peddlers who would go from house to house selling their wares accompany pictures taken at early Gurdwaras along with accounts of how and when Sikhs started to establish businesses.
The sections on the 60s and 70s include accounts of campaigns for the right to wear a turban working on the busses and riding motorbikes. Pictures of those who first wore a turban as part of the uniform of various public services are proudly displayed.
Sikhs in the UK today take Gurdwaras almost for granted, without realising the long journey from humble temples based in homes to the grand marble palaces we enjoy today.
Traditionally Sikhs have not been very good at recording their own history, but Peter has done a great service in charting the history of Sikhs in Britain from the nineteenth century to the present day where Sikhs have become part of the social fabric that is multi-cultural Britain.