Lovers and Strangers

An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain

Clair Wills author

Format: Paperback

Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd

Published: 5th Apr '18

£10.99

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The acclaimed history of the immigrants who made modern Britain, now in paperback.

SHORTLISTED FOR THE ORWELL PRIZE 2018

TLS BOOKS OF THE YEAR 2017

'Generous and empathetic ... opens up postwar migration in all its richness' Sukhdev Sandhu, Guardian

'Groundbreaking, sophisticated, original, open-minded ... essential reading for anyone who wants to understand not only the transformation of British society after the war but also its character today' Piers Brendon, Literary Review

'Lyrical, full of wise and original observations' David Goodhart, The Times


The battered and exhausted Britain of 1945 was desperate for workers - to rebuild, to fill the factories, to make the new NHS work. From all over the world and with many motives, thousands of individuals took the plunge. Most assumed they would spend just three or four years here, sending most of their pay back home, but instead large numbers stayed - and transformed the country.

Drawing on an amazing array of unusual and surprising sources, Clair Wills' wonderful new book brings to life the incredible diversity and strangeness of the migrant experience. She introduces us to lovers, scroungers, dancers, homeowners, teachers, drinkers, carers and many more to show the opportunities and excitement as much as the humiliation and poverty that could be part of the new arrivals' experience. Irish, Bengalis, West Indians, Poles, Maltese, Punjabis and Cypriots battled to fit into an often shocked Britain and, to their own surprise, found themselves making permanent homes. As Britain picked itself up again in the 1950s migrants set about changing life in their own image, through music, clothing, food, religion, but also fighting racism and casual and not so casual violence.

Lovers and Strangers is an extremely important book, one that is full of enjoyable surprises, giving a voice to a generation who had to deal with the reality of life surrounded by 'white strangers' in their new country.

A lyrical account... deeply researched and full of wise and original observations about migration -- David Goodhart * The Times *
Strangers and Lovers is brimming with new archival sources, careful cullings of governmental documents and oral histories - the book encompasses poetry and fiction as well as sociological accounts. -- Sukhdev Sandhu * Guardian *
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand not only the transformation of British society after the war but also its character today -- Piers Brendon * Literary Review *
Masterful... these are the stories of Britain's yesterdays, todays and tomorrows, and they could hardly be more timely. -- Christopher Kissane * Financial Times *
Her well-written, readable story evolves like a novel or film script with key characters. -- Times Higher Education
What you get in Lovers and Strangers is a mix of oral history, scholarly analysis and impressionistic essay -- Clive Davis * The Times *
The perfect post-Brexit book -- Arifa Akbar * Evening Standard *
Lovers and Strangers presents a historically rich view of immigration to Britain. Wills writes with both humour and detail about the lives of thousands of single men from Poland, Ireland, the West Indies and South Asia. Many of her tales are filled with the music, alcohol and nightlife which occupied the attentions of thousands of single men -- Burhan Wazir * Chatham House *

ISBN: 9780141974972

Dimensions: 198mm x 129mm x 20mm

Weight: 319g

464 pages