Question Time And The History Of Migration


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On Thursday evening’s edition of Question Time Neil Hamilton, UKIP’s Deputy Chairman, claimed in a discussion on immigration that more migrants had arrived in 2010 alone than had arrived in the entire period between 1066 and 1950. Mr Hamilton cited the Migration Watch UK website as his source.

The source of this claim is in fact David Goodhart, who in his 2013 work ‘The British Dream: Successes and Failures of Post-War Immigration’ wrote:

‘But actually from 1066 until 1950 immigration was almost non-existent – about 50,000 Huguenots in the 16th and 17th centuries, about 200,000 Jews in two waves, and perhaps 1 million or more Irish over 200 years, during which time they were internal migrants within one state….Since 2004 nearly 500,000 non-British people have arrived in Britain each year to stay for more than a year (with about 200,000 non-British people leaving) – that means more people arrive on these shores as immigrants in a single year than in the entire period 1066 to 1950 (excluding the Irish and wartime flows).’ (p.xxviii)

This claim featured on our website for a period.  However, it was removed in September 2013.  There are very few comprehensive historical sources on immigration prior to the Census in 1801 and it was only in 1851 that the Census began collecting data on the foreign born population. Moreover, immigration only began to be properly counted in 1964. However, what data does exist on population suggests that David Goodhart’s claim may well be correct but it cannot be definitively verified. It was for this reason that we removed it from our website.

The history of immigration to the UK is important to provide the context in which to judge the scale of contemporary flows, which are indeed without precedent. We have published a comprehensive survey of the history of migration to the UK, going back as far as historical analysis allows. See: http://www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk/briefing-paper/6.1

Please visit our website where you can find a range of papers covering immigration to the UK and its impacts and affects: www.migrationwatchuk.co.uk

Question Time was broadcast on BBC1 on Thursday 22nd May 2014. 

23rd May 2014

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