Every history of London — and there have been very many — has looked at the importance for the city of migration. Not to mention it would be as inconceivable as ignoring the River Thames. Both, after all, flow directly through the city’s heart. In this scholarly new study, the difference is that London’s history of migration — its patchwork of settlement, its Irish ‘rookery’, its ‘coloured quarter’, Huguenot silk-weavers, Jewish street-sellers, German bakers, Italian waiters, Chinatown, Banglatown — is placed centre-stage. The movement of all these people to the capital — its extraordinary national, then continental, then international pull — is the story.
Panikos Panayi, born in London of Greek-Cypriot parents, emphasises that his own story is typical.