BBC page for schoolchildren claims ‘every person in Britain is descended from immigrants’

Ethnic minority fans of the Royal family seen waving the union flag on the wedding day for Prince Harry and Meghan in 2019 - Brais G Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
Ethnic minority fans of the Royal family seen waving the union flag on the wedding day for Prince Harry and Meghan in 2019 - Brais G Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The BBC has been accused of teaching “politically correct cliches”, after it emerged its website tells pupils “every person in Britain is descended from immigrants”.

The Bitesize website offers a range of online revision materials for UK exams, and in the section for GCSE studies has chapters devoted to “Migration to Britain”.

Pupils are told at the beginning of the BBC’s revision guide that “every single person living in Britain today is descended from immigrants”.

The opening paragraph of the guide dedicated to migration states: “Throughout our history, moving here has changed the people who came and they have changed Britain.

“Our changing population has been an unchanging fact. The story of migration is the story of our nation seen through the lives of all of us.”

The guide states that this includes “the first settlers about 25,000”, along with “Saxons and Danes; migrants who had invaded and settled”.

The guide takes pupils through the Norman Conquests, as well as Jewish, Huguenot, Irish, and finally 20th century post-colonial arrivals.

BBC material states that “immigration is a controversial political topic in our own time”, but adds: “Studying the history of migration will help you think about today’s arguments in context, with evidence, so that you can make informed judgements that learn from history.”

Raised concerns

However, historians have raised corners with the BBC’s characterisation of arrivals to the UK, claiming that it is a “cliche” that has little basis in fact, with population being largely homogenous for most of British history.

Cambridge historian Prof Robert Tombs said: “This has become a politically correct cliche, but it is misleading.

“In modern times, Britain has been overwhelmingly a nation marked by emigration. Most immigration - or migration - was from other parts of the British Isles.

“Occasional cases of immigration - such as the celebrated Huguenots, Jewish refugees in the late 19th century, or indeed the Kenyan Asians - were relatively few in numbers, and came over a relatively short period.

“Continuous mass immigration - large enough to have a major demographic effect - only dates from the Blair era, and is completely unprecedented in our history.”

'Remarkably stable'

Fellow historian Zareer Masani has argued that genetic research shows the population of the British Isles to have remained stable to millennia, with the many migrations listed by the BBC barely affecting the overall genetic makeup of British people until recent times.

“If we go back far enough in time, we would probably find most of the world has at some point been colonised by movements of population. But it’s absurd to conclude from that that Britain, any more than France, China or India is a country of immigrants.

“In fact, genetic analysis of the ancient DNA of skeletons in Britain shows that the population here has been remarkably stable since at least the arrival of Celts in the iron age three millennia ago.

“The later arrival of Anglo-Saxons, Danes, Normans, Huguenots and Irish have all been shown by historians, archaeologists and geneticists to have involved tiny, very superficial new flows, mostly of either conquering aristocrats or refugees.

“Such new arrivals were rapidly assimilated into the native population."

The BBC have been contacted for comment.