Ethnic Groups in the United Kingdom

Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The United Kingdom, despite being mostly made up of white British or Irish citizens, has an impressive amount of ethnic diversity. In this lesson, we look at the ethnic groups of the UK.

Melting Pot of the World

For many years there were few places that better epitomized the idea of a melting pot than the United Kingdom. London was the center of a great colonial empire, while sites like Manchester and Glasgow were major manufacturing and transport hubs. While the United Kingdom's days as a great colonial empire may be over, vestiges of its past can still be seen in its various ethnic groups. In this lesson we will learn about the native Britons, the Irish, and the many other ethnic groups that make up the United Kingdom.

Native Britons and Irish

More than 87% of the United Kingdom's population identifies as white British or Irish. However the truth is much more complicated than that. As you may know, Britain itself is made up of three constituent countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. Of these, England is by far the largest. However, despite being part of the same country, there are still real feelings of nationality by each of these groups.

Actually, there is a fourth constituent unit of the United Kingdom - Northern Ireland. The Irish are a special case. For starters, some of them have tried to leave the United Kingdom over the past 200 years. At the same time, other Irish fought to stay part of the United Kingdom. As such, on the British census, there are options for Northern Irish as well as Irish.

Colonial Immigrants

Almost 10% of the United Kingdom's population originates in former Colonial territories. The United Kingdom was a great Empire stretching throughout Africa and Asia. Many people from these territories made their way to the United Kingdom. Also with the Commonwealth of Nations, a collection of former British colonies, immigration to the United Kingdom was encouraged for many years. After all, many of these countries felt a strong connection to the United Kingdom. Almost 7% of the United Kingdom's population is ethnically South Asian, while an additional 3% is ethnically African. These groups have assimilated into British culture with varying success, more dependent on the individual's desire to become fully British than any external circumstances.

EU Communities

With Britain's entry into the European Union, many Europeans from the continent were able to move to the United Kingdom. As such, Europeans can be found throughout the country. Very similar to the immigration debate in the United States, this policy remains controversial to this day.

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