Migration from India and Pakistan

The British on the Grand Trunk Road   

Why was the Grand Trunk Road important to the British?

Like previous rulers, the British used the Grand Trunk Road as the main artery of the Punjab and the North-West Frontier. Along it they built garrison towns, or cantonments, to house their armies and civilian officials. People from the surrounding farming areas came looking for trading opportunities or work, and many were recruited as soldiers. Built around existing military bases these towns facilitated the safe and rapid passage of commerce and military force along the GT Road which connected them with the rest of British India.


At the far end of the GT Road lay Calcutta, capital of the British gateway to lucrative trade routes further east. Nearer to the Punjab was Bombay, India’s other major port and headquarters of the East India Company’s private navy and the link between India and Britain. Many Indians worked on East India Company ships, and with servants and nannies of British families returning from India these sailors settled in Britain from the 17th Century onwards.


What is the link between the Grand Trunk Road and migration to Britain?

Between Delhi in India and the Khyber Pass in Pakistan, the Grand Trunk Road runs through the homelands of over 90% of British Pakistanis, and the vast majority of Sikhs and Hindus that have now made Britain their home. These communities owe their presence in Britain to the earliest migrants seeking an escape from rural poverty. Those who lived along the Grand Trunk Road had contact with the British. Mass migration from these regions coincided with demand for labour in Britain after World War II, when families pooled resources to send a young man to work in the British mills. Others soon followed and thus began the process of chain migration. This transformed the lives of both migrants and the places from which they came, many of them dotted along the Grand Trunk Road.


The map below shows the route of the Grand Trunk Road from Calcutta in India, to Kabul in Afghanistan.




 
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Photos © Tim Smith www.timsmithphotos.com

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