Oral history of Caribbean immigrants to Cape

Oral history of Caribbean immigrants to Cape

Jonathan Cape has acquired an oral history of the generation of Caribbean immigrants who came to Britain after the war.

According to Cape England Fever by Colin Grant explores, through first-hand interviews and testimonies, how West Indians succumbed to the "fever" and left their islands between 1948 and 1962 and how they navigated the new cultural landscape when they arrived.

Questions explored in the book include: how did the new arrivals weave themselves into the fabric of British society, while retaining – and in some ways creating – a distinct culture of their own? It addresses, too, "the darker side" of the times as the so-called "immigrant problem" became recast as a "colour problem", culminating in race riots and changes to the immigration laws.

Deputy publishing director Bea Hemming, who acquired UK and Commonwealth rights from Sophie Lambert at C+W, said the book would add "a new, richly detailed chapter to the history of Black Britain that has been neglected for far too long".

"These first-hand testimonies are fascinating, poignant and revelatory," Hemming said. "They remind us just how much our country has changed within a lifetime, and they need to be recorded before it is too late. In so many ways, this feels like a book that Colin has been preparing to write all his life. I couldn’t be more excited to be publishing it at Cape."

Grant said he felt he was "born to tell" the "under-examined stories" of this generation.

"England Fever is a chance to capture the accounts of ordinary Caribbean people, the epitome of cool, the unknown giants of my childhood who dressed to a point beyond distinction and folded you into the warmth of their lives – from the front room preachers, the unofficial (pardner) bankers, and the Guinness-loving gamblers, through to the Carnival Queens and the first importers of yam, ackee 'n' saltfish – all who brought a little bit of Caribbean spice to British life," he said. "The under-examined stories of the descendants of these first migrants and the pioneers themselves, now much closer to the end of their adventures than the beginning, are ones I was always bound and born to tell."

Jonathan Cape will publish England Fever in autumn 2019.