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Kathrin Levitan

In the 1830s, a public campaign for postal reform in Great Britain resulted in the “Penny Post,” which made postage standard and affordable throughout the country. Proponents of postal reform advertised it as a unifying and democratizing force. The Post Office, by allowing people from all social backgrounds and geographic locations to communicate with one another could make British people feel like part of a whole. At the same time, the Penny Post was billed as an agent of empire and migration. Reformers argued that cheap postage would make it possible for people to migrate internally for work and to emigrate to distant lands without losing touch with friends and relatives. Writing letters was clearly about maintaining kinship ties, but family could also serve as a metaphor for something larger. Cheap postage would allow people to stay in touch with their families but also be connected to a larger community, and would ultimately, observers argued, unite the nation and the Empire. Through an examination of the campaign for postal reform and some of the infrastructural issues facing letter-writers across long distances, we can gain insight into the role that letters and the Post Office played in British debates about technology, migration, and society in the nineteenth century.

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Ipshita Nath

When European women began coming to India as part of the “fishing fleet”1 to find husbands and settle down, they faced several problems, particularly due to lack of medical facilities. The expansionist nature of the colonial enterprise that entailed travelling made it further difficult for the wives of the sahibs who faced problems during journeys with regard to health and hygiene, mainly due to the intense heat, inadequate medical facilities, and lack of understanding of gynaecological processes.

In colonial India, British women were affected by several gynaecological and obstetrical problems that were specifically attributed to travelling and movements. These ranged from menstrual troubles to “chronic inflammation of their wombs.”2 Travelling was arduous and jolty palanquins or carriages could be dangerous, especially for pregnant women. Fears of complications during pregnancy, miscarriages, and even death resulted in a profusion of medical manuals that advised against excessive travelling or movements. This paper, grounded on testimonials by memsahibs like Minnie Blane, Ellen Beames, and Margaret Smith, focuses on the impact of female health concerns on women’s mobility, in order to trace how travelling became a gendered activity in colonial India. It presents detailed analyses of medical treatises on women’s biological processes to show how the texts discouraged travelling if it threatened women’s reproductive health. This reveals the underpinnings of colonial Victorian ideology with regard to women and motherhood.

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Sally Brooke Cameron

This chapter deals with the child migrant. It focuses on the many poor and working-class Home Children who, between 1869 and 1936, were sent from their British homes to work in Canada. This transatlantic relocation scheme was touted by organizers Annie Macpherson and Maria Rye as beneficial to the child, as well as the colony and home country: the child would be saved in both character and soul through hard labour, while Britain would expand its claim westward through the cultivation of Canadian land and resources (much to the colony’s productive benefit). But the reality of this scheme fell short of such idealistic projections of child salvation: too often the children were mistreated and even outright rejected by their foster families, thus culminating in what this chapter characterizes as their “migrant” status as travellers stuck between blocked horizons. The Home Child became a convenient source of labour that could be both physically and symbolically exploited in order to build countries to which they could never belong. This chapter looks at the cultural impact of these children and the role of their migrant labour in Victorian empire-building and Canadian nationalism.

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Milosz K. Cybowski

After the unsuccessful anti-Russian November Uprising of 1830–31, thousands of Polish exiles left the Kingdom of Poland and sought refuge in the countries of Western Europe. Although it was France that became the main centre of this Great Emigration, hundreds of Polish refugees came to Britain as well. In consequence, by 1835 the British Isles became the second largest asylum for the Polish émigrés in Europe.

By looking at the changes in British interest in the cause of Poland as well as in the fate of Polish refugees who arrived there in the late 1830s and throughout the 1840s, this work aims at showing why in the period between the coronation of Queen Victoria and the outbreak of the Springtime of Nations, Britain lost some of its appeal to the Poles. As will be illustrated, the change was multifaceted and included both the Government, which restricted the number of Poles eligible for receiving the Government Grant, and the public opinion, which, in the face of domestic, economic and social problems, lost its sympathy for the unfortunate Polish refugees.

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Sue Silberberg

The discovery of gold in Victoria, Australia, in 1851 resulted in phenomenal immigration from across the globe, as settlers flocked to participate in the potential riches to be dug from the earth. For a time, Melbourne became the wealthiest city in the world. Current scholarship on empire largely considers those Britons engaged in processes of colonisation as a culturally homogenous group, but this view negates the cultural complexity of the British themselves and of those attracted to new cities within the Empire. From the first forays of European colonisation, Jews immigrated and settled in Melbourne, participating in the settlement experience. They brought to the enterprise their own networks, which were connected in distinctive patterns, both overlapping and diverging from those of their counterparts, connecting them to Jewish communities in the Empire and beyond. Facilitated by international communications, Jewish settlers were able to convey and utilise information concerning this burgeoning economy. As a result, Jewish immigration increased, and their networks assisted in enabling colonial development. This chapter considers how the cosmopolitan outlook and wide networks that Jewish immigrants brought with them assisted in the shaping of Melbourne.

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Daniel Renshaw

This chapter examines in a comparative context the treatment of migration in the social investigatory work of Jacob A. Riis in New York and Charles Booth in London in the last decade of the nineteenth century. By contrasting Riis’s How the Other Half Lives and Booth’s Life and Labour of the People in London, it addresses the different ways in which issues surrounding mass migration were approached on either side of the Atlantic. It begins by documenting the trans-Atlantic nexus of social investigation in the nineteenth century, and the relationship between social investigators in Britain and America. It then compares how the two men map out their respective areas of investigation using class and ethnicity to categorise London and New York. Moving on from this, the chapter examines attitudes to internal migration in Britain and the United States, in the British case from rural areas, and in the American context marked by the beginnings of mass migration by African-Americans from the South to the northern cities. The chapter concludes by dissecting how Riis and Booth articulate ideas of the possible assimilation and acculturation of migrants in their work, and the posited effects of migration on democratic politics in the two cities.

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Marie Ruiz

The introduction locates Victorian migrations in global migration history and accounts for the specificity of international migrations in the Victorian era. It offers a discussion on migration trends, including assisted migration schemes, and proposes to unveil the diversity of Victorian migrants’ backgrounds. A discussion of national identity introduces the transnational approach at the core of this volume. The historiographical focus reveals the diversity of approaches to Victorian migrations, which used to focus on imperial matters before taking into account the migrants. Focussing on connections and circulations, this volume’s transnational framing highlights the spatial and ideological exchanges between Britain and the world, beyond material and geographical frontiers.

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Eric Richards

Exodus is one of the great themes in modern Highland history – dispersal of the Highlanders from their ancestral homelands across the globe. By the mid 19th century Highlanders were to be found in every part of the “Anglosphere” – not only in the south of Scotland and England, but also in India, North America and the Antipodes. There were well-known concentrations of Highlanders in eastern Canada (in Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, and Prince Edward Island); there were other groups in the Carolinas, in New York state, and in Upper Canada, in Red River and beyond. There were fascinating pockets of Highlanders in the Falkland Islands and even in continental Europe, sometimes employed as navvies. There were special and large concentrations in the British armies. In Australasia – the particular focus of this paper – there were also identifiable groups of Highlanders – in New England, in the south-east of South Australia, in Gippsland and the Western District of Victoria, a few in Western Australia and some in tropical Queensland. And, of course, in New Zealand they flourished in several places but most famously at Waipu in the North Island. There was a sense of dispersion as well as of concentration, which complicates the story.