1570-1900: Multiracial Ireland
Meeting in Ireland
Racial and ethnic diversity in Britain, 1600-1900
Early 20th century migration
Racial mixing during WW2
Racial mixing in the era of mass migration, 1950s-60s
Racism and daily life in the 1970s and 1980s
Inside voices: mixed race Irish families in the 1990s
Conclusions and further information

AMRI Exhibition

The popular conception of interraciality in Britain is one that frequently casts mixed racial relationships, people and families as being a modern phenomenon. Yet, as scholars are increasingly discussing, interraciality in Britain has much deeper and diverse roots, with scholars uncovering a substantively documented presence at least as far back as the Tudor era.

From the outset, this racial mixing and mixedness has predominantly taken the form of white women partnering and raising children with men of colour; however, though a growing body of scholarship is highlighting the racial and ethnic diversity of the men, little attention has been paid to that of the women.

Yet, as research at The Mixed Museum is revealing, it is clear that the blanket term ‘white women’ encompasses a range of ethnicities, not least that of women from white Irish backgrounds – a fact clearly reflected by the existence and work of the Association of Mixed Race Irish (AMRI).

The fascinating history of mixed race Irish families in Britain highlighted here in this digital exhibition, the result of a collaboration between AMRI and The Mixed Museum.

Drawing on materials held in our mutual collections as well as research especially commissioned for the project, we hope to provide an insight into the presence and experiences of these families in Britain, the range of social reactions towards them, as well as the social contexts in which they lived. By creating an Irish perspective within the museum’s existing space, we aim to contribute to knowledge about the diversity of Britain’s changing ethnic and racial mix over the last few centuries.

1570-1900: Multiracial Ireland

While - as our exhibition shows - many mixed race Irish families formed as the result of migration to Britain, there are a number of accounts that highlight how Ireland’s own multicultural history has played a part. Scholars are increasingly discovering a more diverse racial presence in Ireland that dates back to the early modern period, including the formation of mixed race people and families.

Early History

Early accounts of racial mixing in Ireland

Mulatto Jack

This is the very short bit of text that appears over the image

Wealthy Planters

Educating children in Ireland

Mixed race possibilities?

Potential histories of mixedness

Early Indian Presence

Indians in 18th century Ireland

Glimpses of racial mixing in 19th century Ireland

Glimpses of racial mixing in 19th century Ireland

Meeting in Ireland

While there is still work to be done to trace these types of mixed race families in Ireland hinted at in nineteenth century reports, there are a fascinating number of accounts of those who first met in Ireland before moving to other countries, including Britain.

John and Mary Jea

1805, John and Mary Jea

Sake Dean Mahomed and Jane Daly

1807 Sake Deen Mohamed and Jane Daly

Pablo and George Paddington

The circus performer and the priest

Tony and Julie Small

1800, Tony and Julie Small

Racial and ethnic diversity in Britain, 1600-1900

The racial and ethnic diversity that had long been a part of British life became further enhanced in the 18th century by mass Irish migration. During this period, patterns of racial mixing between Irish woman and men of colour increasingly became commonplace.

Attitudes towards racial difference and mixing

A spectrum of views

Mixed Race Relationships

Not such an unfamiliar sight

Multiracial Cities

London and Liverpool

Racial and ethnic diversity in Britain

A longstanding history

Edward and Catherine Despard

Early 20th century migration

As the 20th century unfolded, the hardening of attitudes towards race and difference began to move out of the confined circles of specialist race thinkers and scientists and into a more widespread and pervasive public discourse. Moreover these public discussions of racial mixing, once mostly concerned with what was happening in the colonies, started to focus on the interracial intimacy occurring in Britain.

Race and prejudice in early twentieth century Britain

Race and prejudice in the early twentieth century


Mixed race Irish Mancunian families in the early twentieth century

John Archer

1913, John Archer

The 1919 Race Riots

The 1919 Race Riots

Irish-Chinese families in Britain

Irish-Chinese families in Britain

Condemnation of ‘half caste’ children in the 1920s and 1930s

Condemnation of ‘half caste’ children in the 1920s and 1930s

South Asian presence in early twentieth century Britain

Early Indian presence in Britain

Irish-Indian families in Britain: Aubrey Menin, Johnny Sadiq and Pat Cross

Aubrey Menin

Racial mixing during WW2

The arrival of Black American GIs in Britain saw fears around racial mixing in dockside communities replaced by concerns around war time ‘brown babies.’ Such narratives, however, overshadowed existing mixed race adults.

Racial mixing during World War 2

New narratives, old problems

Beyond 'Brown Babies'

Not just GI babies: Elizabeth Anionwu

Lilian Bader

One of the first Black women to join the British Armed Forces

Compulsory repatriation of Chinese seamen in Liverpool

The forced disintegration of families in Liverpool

The 'Brown Babies' of World War 2

The problematisation of the children of Black American GIs and white British women

Mixed race adults from Irish families

Children from the 1920s and 1930s grow up

Racial mixing in the era of mass migration, 1950s-60s

The advent of new post-war migrant populations from the Caribbean and South Asia in Britain in the 1950s and 1960s saw the distinct wartime issue of ‘brown babies’ subsumed in media representations by a much more widespread and complex set of worries around race, citizenship and the subject of domestic racial mixing. The new influx of migration to Britain also contained those from Ireland. By 1951, Britain was home to almost three-quarters of a million Irish-born, this figure increasing in the next decade to to approximately one million making the Irish the largest national group to enter postwar Britain.

Mixed race Irish families in post war Britain

Philomena Lynott, Gus Nwanokwu and Kit de Waal

Mixed race Irish adults in the postwar public eye

Dolores Mantez and Kenny Lynch

Mixed Race Irish Families and adoption

Racism and daily life in the 1970s and 1980s

As the 1970s dawned, a convergence of fears of the ways in which mass immigration was changing Britain saw the black and Asian presence in Britain—once again—increasingly vilified as a root cause of the country’s increasing economic, moral and social woes.

Chris Hughton

The first black footballer to play for Ireland

Racism, prejudice and empowerment in the 1970s and 1980s

Racism and daily life in the 1970s and 1980s

Tara Prem

Tara Prem

Experiences of mixed race Irish families in the 1970s and 1980s

Gabriel Gbadamosi, Jenneba Sie-Jalloh and Second Generation Irish

The Reno

The Mancunian nightclub with a mixed race clientale

Kevin O'Grady

Curry and Chips

John Conteh

John Conteh

Phil Lynott

The Thin Lizzy frontman of mixed Irish and Guyanese heritage

Inside voices: mixed race Irish families in the 1990s

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, though interracial couples, people and families were being recognised as an increasingly ordinary part of the British landscape, they also remained largely invisible in public discourse unless forming part of a ‘problem’ narrative. However, during the 1990s, a ‘new wave’ of research and representation spearheaded by those from mixed racial backgrounds, contributed to challenging the idea of mixed race families as problematic. Amongst these were writers such as SuAndi, Bernadine Evaristo and Joanna Traylor whose work highlighted issues and histories of racial mixing in Britain from an ‘insider’ rather than an ‘outsider’ perspective, often incorporating their own mixed race Irish heritages into their fiction.

The Story of M, SuAndi

Poetic presentation of mixed race history

Lara, Bernadine Evaristo

Semi-autobiographial depiction of a racially mixed English-Nigerian-Brazilian-Irish family over 150 years

Sister Josephine, Joanna Traynor

Award winning semi-autobiographical depiction of transracial adoption

Talking about mixed race Irish heritage

Phil Babb, Terry Phelan, Kanya King

Racial mixing, the Irish ethnic group and the 2001 Census

Mixed race Irish families in Britain at the end of the twentieth century

Conclusions and further information

Concluding thoughts, acknowlegements and continuing the conversation.

Conclusion and reflections



Contact and links