Leaving England: Essays on British Emigration in the Nineteenth Century

By Charlotte Erickson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER THREE
Who Were the English and Scots Emigrants to the United States in the Late Nineteenth Century?

The great migration of European peoples in the nineteenth century has been interpreted as a movement in which economic influences dominated both underlying causes and timing. Through overseas migration and intracontinental movements, people were redistributed from regions of lower to regions of higher labor productivity, from the countryside and rural occupations to urban areas and industrial occupations. Except in the case of the disaster of the Irish famine, emigration was more a means of escaping from relative rural poverty in regions touched by economic growth and structural change than a flight from pure Malthusian crisis. As the writer of a report for the United Nations put it, emigrants came from areas "first in contact with urban and commercial influences." The inhabitants of the poorest and most isolated rural areas in Europe either did not participate in mass emigration at all or joined it late as that isolation was infringed.1

The author thanks Gwenda Moseley Williams, for valuable assistance in research, and Dudley Baines, for reading and commenting on an earlier version.

____________________
1
United Nations Department of Social Studies, Population Division, The Determinants and Consequences of Population Trends, Population Studies, no. 17, 1953, p. 111. See also Dudley Kirk, Europe's Population in the Interwar Years, League of Nations, Economic and Financial Series, II, A.8 ( Princeton: Princeton Office of Population Research, 1946), p. 81. "Emigration began to achieve importance just at the point at which industrialization was making real strides in the Swedish economy" ( Dorothy Swain Thomas, Economic Aspects of Swedish Population Movements, 1750-1933 [ New York: Macmillan, 1941], p. 166); Ingrid Semmingsen , "Norwegian Emigration in the Nineteenth Century", Scandinavian Economic History Review 8 ( 1960): 152-53; Theodore Saloutos, The Greeks in the United States ( Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1964), pp. 2-3, 24.

-87-

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