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Charting the history of Bengalis in Britain

An interesting new book written by author Faruque Ahmed tells the story of Britain’s Bengali community. Bengali Settlement in Britain starts in the 17th century, when some of the earliest settlers to Britain from Bengal were sailors on merchant ships carrying goods from the Indian subcontinent. The well-researched book then takes the reader through subsequent centuries up to the present day.
Inevitably restaurants feature heavily in the latter stages of the book. Faruque Ahmed reckons that, by 1946 there were more than 70 Indian restaurants and another 50 Indian cafés in London. Today there are over 8000 Indian restaurants in the UK and at least 7000 of them are owned by Bengalis.
The book also charts the success of Bengali doctors within the NHS and how those of Bengali heritage have achieve success in the fields of law, accountancy, journalism and other professions, while many started their own businesses and have made fortunes through textiles, catering and trading. In many cases, those British Bangladeshis who have acquired wealth have invested in land and property in their homeland, or donated funds to support health and education, particularly in Sylhet.

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Faruque Ahmed’s pride in the achievements of Britain’s Bengali community is evident as he records the ways in which they have added value to a multicultural society. Yet he also laments the fact that they ‘remain largely uncared for and forgotten in the history of modern Britain’.
For all those interested in the history and experiences of Bengalis in Britain this is an all-important book. It’s is one that is especially relevant at a time when Britain’s links with its colonial past are under review.

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