Five immigrant inventions that made the UK a better place

Sian Hacketton 18 December 2020
Five immigrant inventions that made the UK a better place

This International Migrants Day, we want to celebrate some of the wonderful contributions to British society that immigrants have made over the years.

There are so many things that we would call quintessentially British, but we bet you didn’t know how many of them were actually the invention or design of immigrants. To celebrate International Migrants Day this Friday, we’ve put together a list of five immigrant inventions that helped to make the UK a better place.

1. Food

Whether it’s a special occasion or you simply don’t fancy cooking, who doesn’t love a takeaway or going out for dinner? One of the most popular dishes in Britain is the Chicken Tikka Masala, which is a South Asian dish designed for European tastes. An Indian migrant, Sake Dean Mahomed, who made the journey from Bengal to Brighton, opened the first Indian restaurant in the UK. We have him to thank for the great British curry, including our very own national dish, even if they aren’t traditional Indian recipes.

Similarly, the first fish and chip shop was opened in 1860 by the Jewish immigrant, Joseph Malin. His recipe was influenced by Jewish and Portuguese cuisine and it has been a staple of British cuisine ever since.

2. The Mini

The Mini has been one of the most popular cars in Britain since Alec Issigonis moved over in 1923 and designed it soon after. He was born into the community of Smyrna, now Izmir in Turkey, before migrating to Britain at the tender age of 17. The car was unlike anything else on the market at the time and it quickly rose in popularity, going on to become an iconic British car. Alec later went on to create the Morris Minor, cementing his status as one of Britain’s great innovators.

3. Supermarkets

Tesco is now one of the largest supermarkets in the UK, but it was once a collection of market stalls in London before the first store opened in 1931. It was founded by Jack Cohen, the son of a Polish immigrant.

And Tesco isn’t the only major British supermarket to be founded by immigrants. Marks & Spencer was created when in 1882 Michael Marks came to England as a refugee from Belarus. He eventually teamed up with Thomas Spencer to create the shop we all know today.

4. The London Underground

Before American immigrant Charles Yerkes moved to London in 1900, there were only three underground lines running in the city. After he arrived, he established the Underground Electric Railroad Company, which went on to become the tube system we know and love.

5. The NHS

While the NHS was not the invention of an immigrant, it wouldn’t be the same without its migrant workers. Around 12% of the British healthcare workforce is made up of non-British nationals, which equates to over 200,000 people across the country. Without them the NHS wouldn’t be able to run as it does and, as the last few months have proven, we are all indebted to them and the service they provide.

What’s your favourite British immigrants’ invention? Join our panel today and let us know; you’ll receive a free £10 Amazon voucher when you sign up.

Sian Hacketton 18 December 2020