This month sees the launch of England’s Immigrants 1330-1550, a major new research database by the University of York, in partnership with the Humanities Research Institute (University of Sheffield) and The National Archives.
The vibrant nature of the population of the British Isles owes a great deal to the steady flow of immigrants over the past two millennia. Invasions by the Romans and Normans, sanctuary sought by the Protestant Huguenots, or the need for a workforce encouraging West Indians to immigrate all have had a part to play in making Britain the nation it is today.
Yet there are some gaps in our knowledge, particularly during periods where there were not large swathes of people moving into the country. This is particularly so for the late middle ages, following the expulsion of the Jews from England by Edward I in 1290, and before the arrival of the Huguenots in the 17th century. This was a period of dramatic social change, as Europe was ravaged by the Black Death in the mid fourteenth century and England was at war with France and her allies. At the same time, many industries were booming and trade was buoyant.