Birmingham Stories: local histories of migration and settlement and the practice of history

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Over the last decade research on the history of ethnic minority migrant communities in Birmingham and the West Midlands has grown with investigations looking at postwar migration and settlement; ‘race’ thinking and racism; social movements and community activists; faith communities; national identity; issues of surveillance; the local state; public histories and narratives of the city; urban histories and sources; and visual evidence and history. Much of this research has been matched by the presentation of a sustained argument for new narratives of the city’s (and by implication the nation’s) history which recognizes that there is a need for a radical transformation of social memory in order to better reflect the cultural diversity and difference that is a part of everyday lived reality. This article aims to do two things: first to summarise research to date on the ethnic minority history of Birmingham and to locate it within a historiography that goes back to Eric Williams, Capitalism and Slavery (1938); and second to look at the nature of the historical practice associated with writing local histories of migration and settlement and by doing so to relate this practice to Edward Said’s (2003) idea of ‘communities of interpretation’ and the role of historians in contemporary society.

Bibliographic note

Special issue ‘The History of Ethnic Minority Communities in the Midlands’


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-162
Number of pages14
JournalMidland History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011


  • historiography, migration, race