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Article 2: November - December 2001

The history of Goan Communities in Britain,
by Cliff Pereira (Black and Asian Studies Association)

Goa Today
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 her geography.

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, Panaji/Panjim, Goa.

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 and the British Library has a web site on

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
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

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

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.

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