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Making Britain

Through extensive new archival research, Making Britain uncovered the rich cultural output of an early South Asian diasporic community. The project consequently enhanced public awareness of the depth of this community's contribution to contemporary British life.

Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870-1950, a major collaborative interdisciplinary 3-year research project, ran from 2007-2010. It was led by The Open University, in collaboration with partners, Oxford University, King’s College, London and the British Library. The project, directed by Professor Susheila Nasta (OU), examined the formative contributions South Asians made to Britain’s literary, political and cultural life in this early period. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and supported by a number of distinguished academic advisors, the project investigated how South Asians positioned themselves within British society and culture, and explored the significance of their impact on British life. Tracing some of the key historical links and cultural exchanges between South Asians and Britons, it also highlighted the tensions that arose from such encounters.

Elephant on roof photo

Photograph by Neville Clarke. © Oxford University Estates Directorate.

The project’s research is featured in several major published outputs, including the essay collections ‘South Asian Resistances in Britain, 1858-1947’ (Continuum), ‘India in Britain: South Asian Networks and Connections, 1858-1950’ (Palgrave), ‘South Asians and the Shaping of Britain, 1870-1950: A Sourcebook’ (MUP), a Wasafiri magazine special issue ‘Britain and India: Cross-cultural encounters’ (June 2012), as well as a project monograph, The India Arrived (forthcoming). The project hosted several one-day workshops, the seminar series ‘South Asian Resistances’ and culminated in the conference ‘Bharat Britain: South Asians Making Britain 1879-1950’ at the British Library in September 2010. A public exhibition continued to tour the UK in 2010-12, this was funded by The Open University and the British Library and information on this exhibition is available on our UK Exhibition page.

The Open Univerisity
The University of Oxford
King's College London

Making Britain: South Asian Visions of Home and Abroad, 1870–1950 supported by

The Arts & Humanities Research Council

Making Britain Database

As well as producing published outputs, hosting seminars and a public exhibition, the project created an interactive database with material relating to South Asians in Britain.

Exhibition feedback

Have you visited our 2017 At the heart of the nation: India in Britain outdoor exhibition? Let us know what you think.