Reference NumberP/ADM
TitlePapers of Caroline Adams (1949-2001) chiefly relating to her book "Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers"
Date(s)c 1970s-1998
DescriptionPapers of Caroline Adams (1949-2001) chiefly relating to her book "Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers"; includes cassette tapes and transcripts.

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Extent2 boxes
AdminHistoryBangladesh and its people, particularly the East End community dominated the activity of Caroline Adams. No list of her achievements and unstinting work, both paid and voluntary, can adequately reflect her unique and remarkable contribution to the life of the Bangladeshi community in Tower Hamlets, nor show the significance of her interest, friendship and voluntary support to numerous projects, groups and individuals over 25 years.

Caroline Adams was born in Caterham, Surrey, in 1949 but was brought up in Winscombe, Somerset and educated at Sidcot School, a Quaker foundation, in the Mendips. Her education continued at the University of Kent where she graduated in Politics and Government in 1970. In the following year she travelled to India and undertaking voluntary work in the Cathederal Relief Service in Calcutta and as a playwork organiser in camps for refugees during the war which led to the creation of Bangladesh. In 1972 she became a teacher at Mirzapur School in Bangladesh. During this time she began to learn Bengali and, throughout her time in East London, communicated fluently in Bengali and the Sylhetti dialect though, modestly, she would describe her ability only as "fair".

On returning to England in 1973 she was first a playworker at the Mint Street Adventure Playground in Southwark, and then became a youth and community worker with Avenues Unlimited, the Brick Lane youth project founded and led by Derek Cox. here she had a special brief to work with the Bangladeshi Community. Work included individual, family, group and community development work, addressing such issues as provision for young people, housing, employment training and education, racism and anti-racist strategies and community participation and provision for women and the elderly. Between 1985 and 1989 she was a Youth officer for the Inner London education Authority in Tower Hamlets. Following the abolition of the Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) she joined the Tower Hamlets Youth and Community Work Apprenticeship Scheme as Senior Lecturer. From 1993 onwards she worked as an independent trainer, researcher and consultant. In 1996 she obtained an MA in social history at the University of Essex.

Caroline Adams' publications include "They Sell Cheaper and They Live Very Odd", a comparative review of attitudes to Jewish and Bengali settlers in the East End of London, published by the British Council of Churches in 1977. In 1987 THAP Books published her "Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers - Life Stories of Pioneer Sylhetti Settlers in Britain". Widely regarded as the classic history of Bengali settlement, the book takes the form of ten "life stories" of Sylhetti settlers in their own words, with a substantial historical introduction by the author. Local interest in the book was immediate: Caroline Adams gave a lecture at Queen Mary University of London on 15 March 1988 (see 'Tower Hamlets News', March 1988, p. 7).

The papers, which were bequeathed to Tower Hamlets Local History Library and Archives, mainly relate to "Across Seven Seas and Thirteen Rivers" and include research notes, transcripts of interviews and audio cassette tapes. Some tapes and transcripts of interviews are additional to those appearing in the book or have been made since its publication.

Malcolm Barr-Hamilton
Borough Archivist
October 2001
Oral history
Maritime transport
Access StatusOpen
AccessConditionsMaterial within this collection has been closed under current Data Protection legislation as the records concerned contain sensitive personal data. Please check specific item level descriptions for details, and refer any queries to the Heritage Officer (Archives).
RequestNO - This does not represent a physical document. Please click on the reference number and view list of records to find material available to order at file or item level.


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