Article 2: November - December 2001
The history of Goan Communities in Britain,
by Cliff Pereira (Black and Asian Studies Association)
Today Goa Daman and Diu, is the smallest state in the Indian Union, with a total
area of 3702 Kms and a population of just over 1.2million. The state consists
of a consolidated area roughly halfway down the West or Konkan coast of India,
plus the two small enclaves of Diu and Damman further north of Mumbai (Bombay)
surrounded by the state of Gujarat. The major export of the state is iron ore.
However, with over 1.2 million overseas tourist during the winter months. Tourism
is now the biggest single earner, and this has enabled Goa to retain its position
as India's richest state on a per capita basis. With 450 years of Portuguese
influence, Goa is historically, architecturally, linguistically and socially
distinct to the rest of India. Goa's birth rate is less then half the Indian
national average and its literacy rate (especially for females) is also higher
then the national average. With a Linguistic position between the Aryan North
and the Dravidian South, and its coastal location Goa is an amalgam of religions,
castes and peoples, and although the state language is Konkani. Hindi, Marathi
and English are widely spoken and understood reflecting both her history and
The Historical Background
We know that English sailors and English Jesuit priests had been to Goa in the
sixteenth century, and Goan seamen who had traveled to Lisbon on the Portuguese
"Naus" may have reached the shores of England abroad English prize
ships while she was at war with Spain (which held the Portuguese crown for a
while). We also have literary evidence that by 1600 Goans had been established
in the Swahili ports of East Africa and along the Zembezi River into what is
now Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. However, the British association with the
part-Portuguese people of the Indian Sub-Continent dates back to 1661 when Catherine
of Braganza married Charles II of England. As part of her dowry Catherine brought
the islands of Bombay and Salsette (as well as the port of Tangiers which was
Britain's first African colony). The British would also take-over other Portuguese
territories such as Hoogly (in Bengal), Bassein (near Bombay) and Malacca (in
Malaya). The Portuguese and Indo-Portuguese people of these territories as well
as in Calicut and Cochin in southwest India became British subjects while retaining
some of their Portuguese culture such as their surnames and Catholic religion.
Charles II did not realize the potential of the dowry and decided to rent the
base at Bombay to the East India Company for the sum of £10.00 per year.
The East India Company initially relied on the Indo-Portuguese residents to
man the forts and provide sailors, while the Konkani-speaking fisher-folk (the
Koli) provided the manual labor for the quayside activities. During the Napoleonic
period the British actually occupied Goa, recruiting Goans as seamen into the
Royal Navy and forming two battalions of Goans in Wellesley's army. Soon after
this period it became fashionable for the British in India to have Goan cooks
(who as Christians were freed from the dietary restrictions of Hindus and Moslem).
By this time the Goan community in Bombay had its own schools where Latin, Portuguese
and English were taught. Goans were sought after to provide cooks, barmen, and
musicians for the East India Company and the colonial forces in other parts
of the Indian sub-continent (eg. Madras, Karachi, Calcutta) and further a field
in Aden. With the arrival of steam travel, the opening of the Suez Canal and
the first submarine telegraph links, Goans were increasingly employed by the
British as stewards on the ships, in the telegraph offices of the Indian sub-continent
and Arabia and as clerks and tailors in the ports of the Indian Ocean. This
led to the reintroduction of the Goan community in Zanzibar Mombasa and the
Lamu Archipelago. The nineteenth century expeditions seeking the source of the
Nile and the development of the "Lunatic Express" took Goans to the
Kenya Highlands and into Uganda where they eventually became the backbone of
the colonial civil service throughout British East Africa and in the British
Protectorates of the Persian Gulf. As the Goans established their communities
through Eastern Africa they provided the funds to build Catholic churches, and
hospitals and sports & social clubs. The latter became the basis for sports
for which East Africans are world famous today. Goans were involved in the British
Navy in the First World War and in both the army and navy in the Second World
War. By the end of the Second World War the Goans in East Africa were in a position
to support the nationalist struggles, even though as civil servants most Goans
were barred from politics. The "liberation" of Goa by Indian forces
in 1961 resulted in many of the older Goans returning to Goa to claim their
lands. Meanwhile the younger Goans in East Africa were increasingly involved
in the process of nation-development by joining the professions such as teachers.
Ironically the process which led to the independence of East Africa also led
to the unemployment of Goans in the civil service to the benefit of Africans.
This process which began in the early 1960's added to the Zanzibar Revolution
of 1964 and the nationality crisis from 1967 onwards in Kenya, by which non-citizen
Goans were unable to work without a work permit, which was only supplied to
non-Kenyans if they were irreplaceable. A migration of Goans to Britain under
a voucher scheme began and was known to Goans simply as "The Exodes".
In 1972 the expulsion of Asians including Goans from Uganda under Idi Amin led
to a further migration. The majority of Ugandan Goans went to Canada, but many
went to India and Britain. Since 1972 there have been other Goan migrations
to Britain from Malawi and Pakistan, and from Mozambique to Portugal in 1975.
The majority of Goans in Britain and Canada are Catholics and originally hail
from the three Goan provinces (Bardez, Ilhas and Salsette) of the Old Conquest
in Goa. Most of them had lived in British East Africa, while a minority had
formally lived in Aden, Pakistan Malawi and Zimbabwe. By contrast the majority
of Goans in Portugal, which actually form the second largest population of Asian
origin in Europe were formally from Mozambique, Angola and Goa.
Genealogy for Goans
A major problem for Goans is that it is only in recent years that they have
been known as "Goans". British records in the Indian Sub-Continent
refer to Goans with their Portuguese surnames as "Portuguese Half-Castes",
Eurasians, East Indians and Goanese. Portuguese records in East Africa refer
to Goans as Mesticos and "Canarans", and after the Second World War
Goans in East Africa are referred to simply as Asians, Indians or "Others".
Goans in Goa
For Goans in Goa, there are a wide variety of sources, including church records,
tomb/burial niches and headstones, land-tenure documents in the municipal records
offices (Mapusa, Panjim and Margao), Additionally there is records in The Historical
Archive at the corner of Rua de Ourem and Armada Portuguese Road, Fountainhas,
Goans in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Aden.
For births, baptism, marriage and death records of Christians in British India,
Aden and the Persian Gulf as far back as the 1700's there are records divided
into the three presidency's (Bombay, Madras and Bengal/Calcutta) in the Oriental
and India Office Collection and Archives at the British Library, 96 Euston Road,
London NW1 2DB. General information is available by email on firstname.lastname@example.org
and the British Library has a web site on http://www.bl.uk
Goans in East Africa.
The Family Records Centre (FRC), at 14, Charterhouse Building, Goswell Road,
London EC1M 7BA holds records of births, deaths and marriages submitted by Consulates,
Embassies and High Commissions from all over the world including East Africa.
The Family Records Centre have a web site on http://www.pro.gov.uk/.
There are some records pertaining to colonial employment in East Africa at the
Public Record Office (PRO) at Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU. The Public Records
Office has a web site also on http://www.pro.gov.uk/.
Goans in Britain
Many Goans who were born, married or died in the United Kingdom, can seek information
from the local Catholic Parish Churches. The Bexley Local Studies and Archive
Centre at the Central Library at Bexleyheath will initiate a project by the
end of 2001 to hold some family and local history records pertaining to the
local Goan community. The center can be contacted by email at email@example.com
Goans in the Royal Navy
The Ministry of Defense, at Hendon has records of Goans in the Royal Navy. However
the precise names and dates of birth and service are required as the collection
is not listed by ethnicity. The FRC also has records for deaths at sea for the
First and Second World Wars.
Goans in the British Army
Both the PRO and the FRC have records and returns from British Army Chaplins.
The FRC contains regimental records from 1761 to 1924, and births, marriages
and death records from 1796 to 1965.
There are a number of Internet sites which provide information on Goa and the
Diaspora Goan community:
Copyright: © 2001. Cliff Pereira.