Review: ourmigrationstory.org.uk

Migration to the United Kingdom – much as to the European Union overall, has become a very politicised topic. Amidst heated debate about current affairs, an informative website sets out to shine light on the long and influential history of migration to Great Britain. „ourmigrationstory – The Making of Britain“ is the result of cooperation of several British universities and museums, bringing together research results of experts based at the University of Manchester and Cambridge as well as at various institutions including the National Archives, the Imperial War Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Royal Historical Society. The project is coordinated by a core team consisting of Claire Alexander (Manchester), Joya Chatterji (Cambridge), Sundeep Lidher (Cambridge), Malachi McIntosh (Runnymede Trust) and Debbie Weekes-Bernard (Joseph Rowntree Foundation), all with broad experience in the matter.

The website’s aim is to „present(s) the often untold stories of the generations of migrants who came to and shaped the British Isles.“ Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and in collaboration with the Runnymede Trust, it provides historical overview, specific case studies as well as teaching material for schools (and universities). The website spans from AD43 to the 2000s, covering roughly 2000 years of migration to Britain, from the Romans to Polish migration after 2004.

With regard to our time period of the Second World War, there are short contributions on Polish soldiers and refugees, on Jewish refuge, on the African diaspora during the war, as well as on the Global aspects of the British war effort, and on the Irish contribution to the British  war effort (currently one cultural history piece and one biographical). All pieces are written by academics with expertise on the issues at hand.

Looking at design and accessibility of the website corresponds to the focus on public outreach and teaching. The design is simple yet colourful; the logo on the home page represents the silhouette of Great Britain and Northern Ireland assembled by colourful jigsaw pieces (the Republic of Ireland is added in black and white for good measure). The same colours (blue, orange, green and pink) of these pieces are picked up in the colour scheme for the chronological entities accessible: Blue for AD43-1500 Early & Medial Migrations; orange for 1500-1750 Early Modern Migrations; green for 1750-1900 Industrial & Imperial Migrations; pink for 1900-2000s, 20th & 21st Century migrations. The structure of the site underlines the outreach approach: the chronological icons bring you to an overview (available both in video, short and extended version, followed by a timeline (again in colour code) providing both surview and access to more detailed texts. All texts are authored by experts (mostly historians) on the matter.The rider “Teaching resources” guides you to a sub-chapter containing detailed teaching material for schools, including lesson plans with presentations and handouts to examples of migration to Britain.

Only a couple of minor criticism: While the repeated use of the colours in logo and chronological sub-chapters is optically pleasing, it might for some – younger? – readers implicate that this is a colour code indicating where migration of said period took place/arrived. Also, since a main focus is on the usability for teaching, the entity with teaching resources – currently tucked away and accessible via the menu – could be integrated better into the chronological sub-sections.

Overall, the website Our Migration Story is a valuable collection of online resources and provides overview, teaching resources, as well as very interesting texts on case studies from the long history of migration to Great Britain. No surprise that it has recently been awarded the prestigious Royal Historical Society Public History Prize for best Online Resource in 2018.

 


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