Sailors, students and settlers
in Class, ethnicity and religion in the Bengali East End
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This first chapter sets the scene with a brief historical introduction. It looks at the East End’s immigrant history, at the Bengalis’ Sylheti background, at the first links through lascars in British merchant ships, at the role of Bengali professionals and students, at the enlargement of the community with the arrival of families and through natural growth, at the impact of immigration legislation, and at the development of Bengali neighbourhoods. It gives an introduction to the growing importance of Islam and to the perennial problems around the shortage of housing and the competition this creates. It gives a broad outline of the types of employment Bengalis have taken up, the problems of racism, and the particular and evolving situations and constraints facing Bengali women and young people. It includes statistics from the 2011 census, and ends with a look at recent changes in the area and the impact of gentrification.

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