Dorset still has an olde worlde image, an idyllic land of thatched cottages and shepherds, cut off from the rest of the world. Reality for those who live here is rather different. The book ‘A Story to Tell: Coming to Dorset from around the World’ (1998) interviews some of the people who have come to Dorset to study or live in the last fifty years, and the authors blame Thomas Hardy for Dorset’s mythical image. In fact the county has a long history of trade with far-off places, and people from all over the world have been settling here for hundreds of years. The history of this is only just starting to be studied.
The 1991 census was the first to record ethnicity, and showed that in the South-West region, 1.4% of the population came from an ethnic minority background – a total of 62,600 people out of a population total of 4,609,000 people.
Interestingly, a survey of Dorset schoolchildren in 2002, found exactly the same proportion of children of ethnic minority background – 752 from a total of 51,369, or 1.46%.
A recent report by the Dorset Race Equality Council – Racism and the Dorset Idyll (2003) showed that ethnic minority people had experienced a range of racial discrimination in the county.