During the post war period there were a lot of immigrants from Jamaica: “Between 1948 and 1970 nearly half a million people left their homes in the West Indes to live in Britain” (The National Archives). They came to the UK and for the most, filled the ever increasing labour jobs that were required to rebuild and reconstruct the UK after the mass destruction of World War II. It has been argued that Britain would have struggled to regain its steady industry and economy without the large influx of immigrants and their offer of cheap labour. This was before any laws such as the Commonwealth Immigrants Act were passed in the UK. This Act placed restrictions on who could enter the country so any time prior to this was easier to immigrate to the UK. Shore was one of the people that moved just before the act was enabled: “In those days, you didn’t have to say definite you have a job in England to go to” (Shore, Pure Running, page 31).
The Empire Windrush, took the first large group of immigrants to the UK in 1948.
Shore’s son was the main reason for her wanting to immigrate to the UK: “Through I had this child, I wanted to send for him and grow him up in England” (Shore, 31). Perhaps she wanted him to have a better life with more prospects than she had growing up. The move was not a cheap one: “It take a few years to save the money” (Shore, 31). Shore was evidently very determined to emigrate. Maybe she did not want to grow up with the same limitations her mother had. Many other Jamaicans felt the same way and believed they would have better job opportunities and living conditions in the UK than at home. Shore’s memoir demonstrates quite the opposite of this, although her experience was not unusual for black immigrants: “despite the desperate shortage of labour, some still found it difficult to get good jobs” (The National Archive).
Shore knew several people from her hometown who had already emigrated and, by the time she herself moved, so many had already left the Caribbean that it was deemed normal. Even Shore’s mother seemed indifferent to her daughter moving across the globe: “My mam, she say, ‘All right, go. If that is what you want, go now’ “ (Shore, 31). Shore was one of sixteen children so maybe her mother was unaffected by Shore’s moving because she had so many other children still to care for. Her brother also emigrated to Britain but made no effort to contact Shore, so perhaps the Shore family were never really that close and placed other things above family ties. Shore never returned to Jamaica, even just for a visit: “I could go back to Jamaica to see my family. After what I go through in life, from since I come to London, I think that’s the best part of my life story” (Shore, 62). However, many of the immigrants who came over either at the same time as Shore or earlier, returned back home because they did not find the life they had been led to believe was waiting for them in Great Britain.
The National Archive – http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/education/resources/bound-for-britain/
Louise Shore, Pure Running: a Life Story, Hackney Reading Centre at Centerprise (1982). Burnett Archive of Working Class Autobiography, University of Brunel Library, Special Collection, 2:707.