A new online teaching resource tells the stories of Bengali migrants who left the region after it achieved independence in 1947. They relate their experiences of migration among communities in India, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom.
Aimed at 11- 14 year old school pupils, the Bangla Stories website is the result of a three-year oral history research project organised by the London School of Economics (LSE) and the University of Cambridge. The site focuses in particular on eight individuals, very ordinary people who tell extraordinary stories.
For example, Shamuz Miah describes how he landed at Heathrow in 1964 and, not knowing the distance, took a taxi all the way to Burnley in the North of England. A relative who was already settled there paid for the taxi and helped Shamuz to find work in a cotton mill. He intended to earn some money and become rich before returning to Bangladesh, however he has since chosen to remain in Burnley.
The Bangla Stories website launch was hosted in the House of Lords on 6 July 2010 by Baroness Uddin, the UK’s first female Muslim peer. Baroness Uddin, who is of Bangladeshi origin herself, opened the proceedings with a welcoming speech.
Dr Claire Alexander from the London School of Economics (LSE) then spoke in detail about her reflections on the research and the challenges faced along the way.
Also at the launch were schoolgirls from Mulberry School in Tower Hamlets, who had a chance to tour the Palace of Westminster.
Two of the interviewees themselves were present, which provided an opportunity for them to discuss their experiences of the project and the interview process, such as whether they thought their stories had been represented accurately.