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Edited by Marie Ruiz

On account of its remarkable reach as well as its variety of schemes and features, migration in the Victorian era is a paramount chapter of the history of worldwide migrations and diasporas. Indeed, Victorian Britain was both a land of emigration and immigration. International Migrations in the Victorian Era covers a wide range of case studies to unveil the complexity of transnational circulations and connections in the 19th century. Combining micro- and macro-studies, this volume looks into the history of the British Empire, 19th century international migration networks, as well as the causes and consequences of Victorian migrations and how technological, social, political, and cultural transformations, mainly initiated by the Industrial Revolution, considerably impacted on people’s movements. It presents a history of migration grounded on people, structural forces and migration processes that bound societies together. Rather than focussing on distinct territorial units, International Migrations in the Victorian Era balances different scales of analysis: individual, local, regional, national and transnational.

Contributors are: Rebecca Bates, Sally Brooke Cameron, Milosz K. Cybowski, Nicole Davis, Anne-Catherine De Bouvier, Claire Deligny, Elizabeth Dillenburg, Nicolas Garnier, Trevor Harris, Kathrin Levitan, Véronique Molinari, Ipshita Nath, Jude Piesse, Daniel Renshaw, Eric Richards, Sue Silberberg, Ben Szreter, Géraldine Vaughan, Briony Wickes, Rhiannon Heledd Williams.
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Trevor Harris

During the Victorian period, Britain had a close and profitable economic relationship with Argentina. The latter, after independence, continued to be a very important focus for British investment (notably in the construction of the railway network), as well as a destination for British migrants. A Welsh colony, established with Argentine government approval in the southern province of Chubut Valley, Patagonia, was set up by people who wished to escape anglicisation in Britain and to protect, especially, the Welsh language. The colony experienced serious difficulties in the first few years, but then gradually attained subsistence and, later, economic prosperity. Argentine expansion and nation-building, however, accelerated during the 1870s and incorporated the Chubut region into the Argentine Republic. The colony fragmented: some remained, others chose remigration – often to the British Empire. This decision indicated the residual Britishness of some of the Welsh colonists. This was confirmed on the outbreak of the Great War. Volunteers from the Welsh colony enlisted and expressed loyalty to the war effort and the British Empire. The cultural separatism of the Welsh colony had given way to a plurality of attitudes to both the Argentine state and to Britain, a plurality which requires reassessment of the character of the colony.

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Marie Ruiz

The conclusion comes back to the great variety of case studies and approaches present in this volume. It proposes a discussion on writing transnational history of Victorian migrations, as well as questions such as whiteness and labour migrations. It shows how combining micro- and macro-history, as well as a great variety of sources, and different levels of analysis can both unveil and question the exceptionality of Victorian migrations. This conclusion ends with a discussion challenging the construction of Victorian migrations as migration “crises.”

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Véronique Molinari

One of the most marking events in the history of Ireland, the Great famine, began in 1845 with the first appearance of a new and deadly strain of potato blight that was to cause, in the space of six years, the death of at least one million Irish people and the emigration of another 1.5 million from the island. While the solutions proposed by the British government to alleviate the crisis mostly consisted in emergency relief measures such as the import of grain, public works and soup kitchens, from 1847 the British government increasingly turned to assisted emigration as part of the Irish Poor Law Extension Act voted that same year. While most Irish destitutes left for Canada or the United States, one particular group of emigrants was sent to Australia as part of what was known as the “Earl Grey scheme” after its principal architect, the then Secretary of State for the Colonies. This consisted in some 4,000 adolescent female orphans who, between 1848 and 1850, left Irish workhouses for the Australian colonies and settled in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. The idea arose from pragmatic considerations: this young female emigration would simultaneously relieve pressure on the already overflowing Irish workhouses, ease the labour shortage in Australia and help redress the gender imbalance there. Even though it had to wind up after only two years of existence, the scheme gives us interesting insight into several contemporary issues, including the wider question of assisted female emigration, anti-Catholic prejudice and that of the increasingly complex relationships between Britain and its colonies

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Jude Piesse

This paper examines a range of poetry and short fiction about emigration to the British colonies and America which was published by women within Victorian periodicals. It draws scholarly attention to the largely unexamined genre of women’s emigration poetry that flourished across a range of titles and analyses a smaller pool of women’s short fiction about emigration published in domestic women’s magazines. In contrast to other Victorian emigration-themed literature, periodical emigration poetry and fiction by women often gives voice to the experience of emigration from the woman’s point of view. It also frequently challenges dominant ideas about settlement as a positive experience by invoking predominantly earlier tropes of the emigrant as exile and by complicating links between femininity and settler domesticity. In focusing upon this neglected material, the chapter aims to refine concepts of how emigration was registered within Victorian literature and culture and to broaden our understanding of the range of ways in which it was experienced during the period.

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Rebecca Bates

This study sheds new light on juvenile emigration during the Victorian period by focusing on the earliest philanthropic organization in England dedicated to assisting children to the colonies. The chapter examines how the Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy (1830), which became the Children’s Friend Society in 1833, envisioned the daily life of working-class children in England. This argument is made by first considering the founding and early years of the Society for the Suppression of Juvenile Vagrancy, when the Society was committed to agricultural education, including home-colonization schemes. The records of the Society reveal that removing the children from Britain was highly contested within the organization and quite secondary to the goal of providing employment opportunities for future Britons. The work turns to consider the Society’s transition from the practice of home colonization to emigration. I argue that placing children in the settler colonies occurred only after the Society failed to receive the necessary cooperation from parish authorities that was needed to establish agrarian training in Britain. The chapter concludes by illustrating how the Children’s Friend Society continued to attempt to create a pre-industrial, paternalistic Britain that embraced poor and delinquent children, albeit in the colonies.

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Ben Szreter

This study aims to address the paucity of historiography on immigration into Britain before 1945 by analysing non-European immigration to England and Wales 1851–1911. Using newly available digitised census data, a full population dataset of 725,625 individual records, of people born outside Europe living in England and Wales, was formed. It was found that non-Europeans tripled proportionately across the period from 0.20% to 0.59% as a percentage of the population. Surprisingly, non-European immigration almost matched European immigration across the period. Most Non-Europeans were from “South Asia and Indonesia” or “Neo-Europe” and spread across England and Wales with a concentration in the south east. It was also found that the majority of non-Europeans were female, a finding that was both unexpected and contradicts long-held ideas about long-distance immigration. These females were older than male immigrants, more likely to be widows and also likely to be from a high social class, suggesting a relatively affluent excess female population, with many possibly returning to their ancestral families from abroad. The occupations of non-Europeans are also analysed using a modified HISCO classification of occupations.

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Anne-Catherine de Bouvier

When the Famine began to spread in Ireland, it was largely viewed as a Malthusian catastrophe. Emigration as official policy was implemented late, and on a small scale. The few thousand assisted emigrant paupers leaving Ireland from late 1848 did not match the million(s) who found their way out of the country thanks to private means.

Yet, in all pre-Famine official reports on the “Irish question,” understood as lawlessness and economic under-development in varying proportions, assisted emigration was part of final recommendations. It also seems to have been the wish of many landlords in Ireland. Indeed, the country was under-industrialized, and there was strong pressure on the land. In March and April 1847, a fierce debate opposed those who called for a massive plan of assisted emigration as a substitute for other contemplated measures, and a few dedicated nationalists who held that population was not the cause of the problem, and was not to be removed. From mid-47, parliamentary attention repeatedly turned to assisted emigration – with few practical results. While cost may have dampened official enthusiasm, there was more to such reluctance. The debate also hinged on the status of the people – of the Irish people, of the colonies, and of their relation to the Empire.

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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.

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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.