Arup K. ChatterjeeMar 10, 2022
Indians in London
From the Birth of the East India Company to Independent India
London has always been a galvanizing factor for the South Asian community—whether due to the machinations of empire, the drive for higher education, or the need to make a living. South Asians make up the largest group of foreign-born individuals in London—and South Asian politicians in the U.K. cross the political divide, from Rishi Sunak and Priti Patel to Sadiq Khan.
Many of India and Pakistan’s most important historical figures also passed through London: Gandhi, Nehru, Jinnah, Bose all lived and worked in London. The head of the British Empire was the location for much of the debate and activism that drove India’s independence movement.
Indians have been a part of London’s community for centuries, a point made clear in Indians in London: From the Birth of the East India Company to Independent India (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2021), by Arup K. Chatterjee. Across almost half a millennium, Chatterjee tells the stories of the South Asians that traveled to London: poor and rich, those who stayed and those who went back to change the region’s politics forever.
In this interview, Arup and I talk about the four centuries worth of South Asians that traveled to London, what brought them there, and how they changed South Asia when they returned.
Arup K. Chatterjee is an Associate Professor at OP Jindal Global University. He is the founding chief editor of Coldnoon: International Journal of Travel Writing & Travelling Cultures, which he has run from 2011 to 2018. He has authored The Purveyors of Destiny: A Cultural Biography of the Indian Railways (Bloomsbury India: 2018), and The Great Indian Railways (Bloomsbury India: 2019), as well as over seventy articles and academic papers in national and international publications.
Nicholas Gordon is an associate editor for a global magazine, and a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.