Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

'Dare the Boist'rous Main': The Role of the Belfast News Letter in the Process of Emigration from Ulster to North America, 1760-1800

Academic journal article The Canadian Geographer

'Dare the Boist'rous Main': The Role of the Belfast News Letter in the Process of Emigration from Ulster to North America, 1760-1800

Article excerpt

Before the mass migrations from Ireland in the nineteenth century, earlier waves of migration in the eighteenth century saw significant numbers of people leave Ireland, predominantly from Ulster, to settle in North America. This article, using as its principal data source the Belfast News Letter (BNL), its letters, advertisements and reports, focuses firstly on reconstructing the late eighteenth-century migration process and voyage, highlighting the barriers represented by the Atlantic Ocean. In addition to the challenges of the sea, there were problems with the ships, the ever-present danger of disease and also threats from other vessels, from privateers to press gangs. The voyage was recognized as a 'universal dread', and the risks taken to 'dare the boist'rous main' were perhaps not minimized in the pages of the BNL, whose editorial stance was antipathetic to the migration for the potential harm it caused to Ulster by removing so many of its industrious young. The second part of this article goes on to consider the newspaper's and others' vested interests in the emigration process, demonstrates how these were manifested in the press and sets the coverage of this very significant early emigration flow within the context of contemporary religious and colonial discourses at a period of very lively transatlantic interactions.

Les migrations de masse en provenance de l'lrlande au cours du dix-neuvieme siecle ont ete precedes par des vagues de migration au dix-huitieme siecle oU bon nombre de personnes ont quitte l'lrlande, la province du nord d'Ulster fournissant le plus gros contingent. Malgre les contraintes liees au voyage transatlantique, elles ont reussi a s'installer en Amerique du Nord. Le Belfast News Letter, ses courriers, avis et reportages constituent la source principale de donnees. Le present article propose une analyse de la couverture journalistique du processus de migration et du voyage a la fin du dix-huitieme siecle et explore le role de ce quotidien dans la formation d'un systeme de migration transatlantique naissant entre l'Ulster et l'Amerique du Nord. Le voyage etait considere comme une <> et les risques encourus d <> n'etaient vraisemblablement pas minimise's dans les pages du Belfast News Letter dont la position editoriale mettait en cause la migration qui representait pour l'Ulster une menace possible, car une partie importante des jeunes les plus dynamiques quittaient. Cet article examine les positions acquises du quotidien et des autres dans le dossier du processus d'emigration, demontre comment elles se sont exprimees dans la presse et inscrit la couverture de ce premier flux d'emigration d'une importance capitale dans le contexte des recits religieux et coloniaux contemporains et d'une periode marquee d'interactions transatlantique stimulantes.

Introduction

Before the mass migrations from Ireland in the nineteenth century, earlier waves of migration in the eighteenth century saw significant numbers leave Ireland. Estimates of emigration from Ireland to North America for the period up to 1776 range from 60,000 to about 200,000, the majority of whom left from Ulster (Miller et al. 2003). This article, using as its principal data source the Belfast News Letter (henceforth BNL), its letters, notices and reports, explores the aspects of the migration flow from 1760 to 1800. It focuses firstly on evidence from the BNL of the processes and the barriers involved in the transatlantic voyage and then goes on to explore the contested nature of the BNL coverage of this early migration process within the context of contemporary religious and colonial discourses at a period of lively transatlantic interactions.

Data Source: The BNL

Studies of migration and its impact have been characterized by the use of a range of quantitative and qualitative data, with some concentration in recent years on the letter home, from focused work such as Miller et al. …

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