School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Dr Ugolini joins Sky’s immigration debate

A film of History lecturer Dr Wendy Ugolini is featured on the Sky News website*, as part of its Immigration Week feature.

During the four and a half minute footage, Dr Ugolini argues that while Britain prides itself on being a tolerant nation, history has shown that migrant groups often face intolerance, misunderstanding and even racial violence before their economic and cultural contribution is fully recognised.

Struggle for integration

“Immigrants have always played a hugely important part in British culture,” says Dr Ugolini, outlining their contribution to the economy, arts, sport, fashion and food.

Yet, while is it important to celebrate success and integration, as First Minister Alex Salmond did when he described the Scottish Italian community as “one of the strongest and brightest threads in the fabric of Scotland”, Dr Ugolini believes that it is just as important to remember that most migrant groups traditionally encounter some animosity at first.

Lessons from history

“In the 19th and 20th centuries, very few migrant groups didn’t face some sort of racist hostility,” says Dr Ugolini, citing amongst others the anti-Italian riots in the Second World War and the Notting Hill and Nottingham riots against West Indian immigrants in the 1950s.

Now, she says, these groups are accepted but hostility to new groups has taken their place.

Dr Ugolini sees the recent attacks on mosques, following the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby, as part of “a readiness to target the internal ‘other’.”

Understanding and acceptance

To understand the experiences of present-day East European and Polish immigrants, Dr Ugolini says, “We need to grapple with the negative aspects of our immigration history”.

Above all, she feels, we need to move away from our inherent suspicion of the outsider and, instead, to acknowledge and celebrate Britain’s cultural and ethnic diversity.

* To see the film of Dr Ugolini, click the Sky News link below, click 'enter', then select the book icon - Dr Ugolini appears in the top film clip on the right.