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The Context

  • Robin F. Haines

Abstract

In a seminal paper published in 1960, Frank Thistlethwaite argued that the time had come to liberate the study of European emigration. In the traditional epic form, convulsing waves of uprooted peasants and artisans succumbed to epidemics of emigration fever. Trudging from home to the port of departure, and enduring a dangerous and wretched voyage, they huddled in misery on foreign shores, far from home.1 Thistlethwaite suspected that by forsaking the grand narrative in favour of a close study of the individual or group experience of emigrants from particular regions to specific destinations, we might learn rather more about the motives, characteristics, and pathways of people who were not simply members of a homogeneous mass, but who were participating in highly distinctive movements. Instead of a mysterious phenomenon which carried waves of powerless and wretched victims in its slipstream, emigration might be seen as one aspect of a process which stimulated the seasonal circulatory movements of specific occupational groups within Europe, extending outwards around the Mediterranean basin, and often culminating in a circular navigation of the ‘Atlantic lake’. For many millions of European workers, a natural extension of this ‘proletariat globetrotting’ was an individually-organized one-way voyage to the New World.2

Keywords

British Government Colonial Government Grand Narrative Irish Context Distinctive Movement 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Frank Thistlethwaite, ‘Migration from Europe Overseas in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’, Rapports, V: Histoire Contemporaine, Xle Congress International des Sciences Historiques (Stockholm, 1960),Google Scholar
  2. reprinted in: Stanley N. Katz and Stanley I. Kutler (eds), New Perspectives of the American Past, Vol 2 (Boston, 1969). Rudolph Vecoli has also argued that Italian emigration was seldom the tragic epic as described in Oscar Handlin’s pioneering model (The Uprooted (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1951)).Google Scholar
  3. See Vecoli, ‘Contadini in Chicago: A Critique of The Uprooted’, Journal of American History, 51 (1964), reprinted in Leonard Dinnerstein and Frederick C. Jaher (eds), The Aliens (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1970). Jon Gjerde confirms that American social historians found little evidence to support Handlin’s ‘history of alienation thesis’. Instead, they found diverse and rich immigrant experience.Google Scholar
  4. See Gjerde, From Peasants to Farmers: The Migration from Balestrand, Norway to the Upper Middle West (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985).Google Scholar
  5. 3.
    Charlotte Erickson ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1831’, Population Studies, 35 (1981) p. 177; ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1841, Part I’, Population Studies 43 (1989) p. 347.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. See also Erickson’s revised and expanded essays in Leaving England: Essays on British emigration in the nineteenth century (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994).Google Scholar
  7. 4.
    Path-breaking works in this regard include I. Ferenczi, International Migrations, vol 1: Statistics (New York, 1970, first published in 1929);Google Scholar
  8. N.H. Carrier and J.R. Jeffery, External Migration: A study of the available statistics, 1815–1950 (London: HMSO, 1953). For an extended historiographical survey of migration estimates in the Australian context see Robin Haines and Ralph Shlomowitz, ‘Nineteenth-century immigration from the United Kingdom to Australia: an estimate of the percentages who were government-assisted’, Flinders University Working Papers in Economic History, 45 (1990). Compressed sections of this long paper appear as ‘Nineteenth-century government-assisted and total immigration from the United Kingdom to Australia: quinquennial estimates by colony’, Journal of the Australian Population Association, 8:1 (1991) 50–61; ‘A statistical approach to the peopling of South Australia: immigration from the United Kingdom, 1836–1900’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, 19 (1991) 105–15; ‘Immigration from the United Kingdom to Colonial Australia: a statistical analysis’, Journal of Australian Studies, 34 (1992) 43–52.Google Scholar
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    See ‘Annals of the emigrant’, in Eric Richards, Richard Reid and David Fitzpatrick, Visible Immigrants: Neglected sources for the history of Australian immigration (Canberra: Highland Press, 1989) p. 13.Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    Between 1848 and 1887, the bulk of over 34 million pounds privately remitted to the UK from North America was destined for Ireland. See David Fitzpatrick, Irish Emigration 1801–1921 (Dublin: Dundalgen Press, 1985) p. 21.Google Scholar
  11. On Ireland see also Fitzpatrick, Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (Cork: Cork University Press, 1995) and in ‘Emigration 1801–70, in W.E. Vaughan (ed.), A New History of Ireland, vol v (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989).Google Scholar
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  14. 8.
    See Charlotte Erickson, ‘Explanatory models in Immigration and Migration Research’, in Ingrid Semmingsen and Per Seyersted (eds), Scando-Americana Papers on Scandinavian Emigration to the United States, (Oslo: American Institute, University of Oslo, 1980) p. 19 and Jon Gjerde, From Peasants to Farmers, p. 1, passim. Thistlethwaite’s role in stimulating Scandinavian historians’ interest in migration studies is also acknowledged by Ingrid Semmingsen who discusses the effect of his seminal paper in ‘Emigration from Scandinavia’, Scandinavian Economic History Review, 1 (1972) p. 45 passim. Norwegian sources are particularly rich: see Jon Gjerde, From Peasants to Farmers, pp. 1–6, passim.Google Scholar
  15. 9.
    For a discussion on this issue see Eric Richards’ analysis of the problems of poverty and immigration in ‘British poverty and Australian Immigration in the Nineteenth Century’ in Richards (ed.) Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century: Visible Immigrants Two (Canberra: Highland Press, 1991) pp. 4, 28.Google Scholar
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    This call, one of many in the early 1960s, for historians to seize the methods and concepts of the social sciences in order to develop a ‘new social history’ has recently been criticized for its tendency towards ‘unrestrained fragmentation’ or ‘compartmentalisation’. The ‘New Social History’, which was a ‘hard hat area’ wherein studies of social and cultural relationships demanded a conceptual restructuring of questions and approaches to the writing of history, has largely achieved its aim, argues Keith Wrightson, by broadening historical enquiry. And yet he and other critics are worried by ‘chronological specialisation’, and ‘sub-periodisation’ which ‘threatens to frustrate the apprehension of long-term processes of continuity and change’. See, for example, Wrightson, ‘The Enclosure of English Social History’, Rural History, 1:1 (1990) 73–81; David Cannadine, ‘The Way We Lived Then’, Times Literary Supplement, September 7–13 (1990) 935–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 12.
    Charlotte Erickson, ‘Explanatory models in Immigration and Migration Research’ (1980) p. 13;Google Scholar
  18. Bernard Bailyn, ‘The Challenge of Modern Historiography’, The American Historical Review, 87:1 (1982) pp. 1–3.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 13.
    Many econometricians continue to develop models of migration which, however rigorous and intriguing, leave many questions about human movement unanswered. The convergence thesis, for example, is an attractive proposition at the national level but its abstraction masks regional differentials, and makes large assumptions about the motives of ‘economic man’. See, for example, Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson (eds), Migration and the International Labour Market, 1850–1939 (London: Routledge, 1994)Google Scholar
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  21. 14.
    See Thistlethwaite, ‘Migration from Europe Overseas’, pp. 77–8; Charles Price, Malta and the Maltese: a study of nineteenth-century migration (Melbourne: Georgian House, 1954).Google Scholar
  22. 16.
    Erickson, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the USA in 1841, Part I’, p. 367; Dudley Baines, Migration in a Mature Economy: Emigration and Internal Migration in England and Wales 1861–1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985) p. 166.Google Scholar
  23. 18.
    References to the debate are too numerous to note fully here, but for an exemplary example of modelling based on this concept see David Fitzpatrick, ‘Irish emigration in the later nineteenth century’, Irish Historical Studies, xxii:86 (1980) 126–43. For a historiographical critique of push/pull models see Charlotte Erickson, ‘Explanatory models in immigration and migration research’, p. 13. Further changes in scholarly attitudes to the push/pull dichotomy can be charted by referring to Erickson, ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1831’, p. 175; ‘Emigration from the British Isles to the U.S.A. in 1841, Part II’, p. 21. Dudley Baines also offers an extensive critique in Migration in a Mature Economy, p. 20 passim.Google Scholar
  24. Wilbur Zelinsky, in ‘The impasse in migration theory: a sketch map for potential escapees’, in Peter Morrison (ed.), Population Movements: their forms and functions in urbanization and development (Liége: Ordina Publications, 1981) p. 27, sensed a ‘growing disenchantment with the further prospects [of push/pull and related models of migration]’.Google Scholar
  25. For earlier contributions to the debate, see Maldwyn Jones, ‘The background to emigration from Britain in the nineteenth century’, Perspectives in American History, 7 (1973) p. 29, passim.Google Scholar
  26. On the Australian front see David Pope, ‘The Push-pull model of Australian migration’ Australian Economic History Review, 16:2 (1976) p. 152, where he argues that although there is a high consensus amongst econometric historians that the ‘pull’ factor was a ‘single dominant influence on Australian migration’, the ad hoc nature of the model rendered their findings, at best, tentative.Google Scholar
  27. See also the introduction to Shula Marks and Peter Richardson (eds), International Labour Migration: Historical Perspectives (London: Institute of Commonwealth Studies, 1984) for a critique of the debate. Economists remain less sceptical. For recent contributions employing modelling techniques, see Jeffrey Williamson and Timothy Hatton (eds), Migration and the International Labour Market, 1850–1939.Google Scholar
  28. 20.
    For a finely-detailed analysis of one shipowner’s shrewd movement into the Australian trade, and the development of passenger services aimed at exploiting government-assistance to the labouring classes, see Frank Broeze, Mr Brooks and the Australian Trade: Imperial business in the nineteenth century (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 1993) especially pp. 123–6 where he concludes that the ‘transfer of large numbers of white migrants to Australia and New Zealand during the 1830s and 1840s was the result of private enterprise rather than of the impact of Wakefield and his ideas on systematic colonization’.Google Scholar
  29. 21.
    Fares could rise dramatically during times of crisis including, for example, the Crimean War. See John McDonald and Ralph Shlomowitz, ‘Passenger fares on sailing vessels to Australia in the nineteenth century’, Explorations in Economic History, 28 (1991) 192–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. 22.
    The former include R.C. Mills, The Colonization of Australia 1829–1842 (Sydney: 1919, 1974);Google Scholar
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  36. and Helen Cowan, British Emigration to British North America: The First Hundred Years (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, rev. ed. 1961).Google Scholar
  37. The latter include Fred H. Hitchins, The Colonial Land and Emigration Commission (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1931);Google Scholar
  38. Oliver MacDonagh, A Pattern of Government Growth, 1800–60 (London: MacGibbon Kee, 1961). Wilbur Zelinsky coined the phrase ‘organized worrying’. See ‘The impasse in migration theory’. Frank Broeze’s Mr Brooks and the Australian Trade offers an exemplary analysis of the symbiosis between government policy and entrepreneurship.Google Scholar
  39. 24.
    These themes have maintained a steady exposure in Australian historiography this century and have infiltrated the work of migration historians of the Atlantic flows. For reviews of the literature, see Robin Haines, ‘Indigent misfits or shrewd operators? Government-assisted emigrants from the United Kingdom to Australia, 1831–1860’, Population Studies, 48 (1994) 223–247; idem, ‘Were criminals diverted to Australia via assisted immigration schemes in the nineteenth century?’ Flinders University Working Papers in Economic History, 68 (1995); idem, ‘Workhouse to gangplank: the mobilization of Irish women and girls bound for Australia c1850’, in Richard Davis (ed.), Irish-Australian Studies 8: Papers delivered at the Eighth Irish-Australian Conference (Sydney: Crossing Press, 1996); idem, ‘“Shovelling out paupers”? parish-assisted emigration from England to Australia, 1834–1847’, in Richards (ed.), Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. 25.
    See, for example, James Jupp (ed.), The Australian People: An Encyclopedia of the Nation, Its People and Their Origins (Sydney: Angus and Robertson, 1988);Google Scholar
  41. Eric Richards (ed.), The Flinders History of South Australia: Social History (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1986);Google Scholar
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  48. Oliver MacDonagh and W.F. Mandle (eds), Irish-Australian Studies 5: Papers delivered at the Fifth Irish-Australian Conference (Canberra: Highland Press, 1989).Google Scholar
  49. 26.
    N.G. Butlin, in Forming a Colonial Economy: Australia 1810–1850 (Melbourne, Cambridge University Press, 1994) pp. 9, 18, 27 passim, speculates that assisted emigration to Australia was a form of ‘proto-transportation’ whereby the criminal classes may have been channelled via British and Irish workhouses to Australia.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Geoffrey Blainey, in A Shorter History of Australia (Melbourne: Heinemann, 1994) pp. 52–3 puts forward a similar view.Google Scholar
  51. Both unfootnoted texts paraphrase the classic views of R.B. Madgwick, Immigration into Eastern Australia (Sydney: Sydney University Press, 1969, first published 1937) pp. 215, 249, passim.Google Scholar
  52. 30.
    R.M. Crawford, Australia (London: Hutchinson, 1952, 1979).Google Scholar
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    R.J. Shultz, ‘Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788–1851’, Historical Studies, 14:54 (April, 1970) p. 273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 37.
    Geoffrey Blainey, A Shorter History of Australia, pp. 52–3. For an analysis of why the imperative for immigrants to ‘lean on the government’ was constrained, see Brian Dickey, ‘Why were there no poor laws in Australia?’, Journal of Policy History, 4:2 (1992) pp. 111–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 38.
    F.K. Crowley, ‘British Migration to Australia: 1860–1914’, unpublished D. Phil thesis (Oxford: Oxford University, 1951); idem, ‘The British contribution to the Australian population 1860–1919’, University Studies in History and Economics (July, 1954) 55–88;Google Scholar
  56. R.J. Shultz, ‘Assisted immigration into New South Wales and Port Phillip District 1837–1850’ (unpublished PhD dissertation, Canberra: Australian National University, 1971), and idem, ‘Immigration into Eastern Australia, 1788–1851’, Historical Studies, 14:54 (April 1970) 273–82, which is a critique of Madgwick’s arguments. See Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  57. 40.
    Ralph Shlomowitz, ‘Nominated and selected government-assisted immigration from the United Kingdom to Australia, 1848–1900’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia, 20 (1992) 151–5.Google Scholar
  58. 41.
    David Fitzpatrick, ‘Irish Immigration to Australia, 1840–1914’, Bulletin for the Centre of Tasmanian Historical Studies, 2:3 (1989) 51–67.Google Scholar
  59. 50.
    On American letters see Charlotte Erickson’s path-breaking Invisible Immigrants: the adaptation of English and Scottish immigrants in nineteenth century America (London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1972). The pre-eminent projection of steerage-class Irish emigrant voices is David Fitzpatrick, Oceans of Consolation.Google Scholar
  60. See also Christopher O’Mahony and Valerie Thompson, Poverty to Promise: the Monteagle Emigrants 1838–58 (Sydney: Crossing Press, 1994); Patrick O’Farrell, Letters from Irish Australia; Eric Richards, ‘A Voice from Below: Benjamin Boyce in South Australia, 1839–46’, Labour History, 27 (1974); idem, ‘Immigrant Lives, 1836–1986’, in Eric Richards (ed.), The Flinders History of South Australia: Social History (Adelaide: Wakefield Press, 1986); Richards, Reid and Fitzpatrick, Visible Immigrants; Richards (ed.), Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century; Richards (ed.), Visible Women; David Fitzpatrick (ed.), Home or Away?;Google Scholar
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Copyright information

© Robin F. Haines 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robin F. Haines
    • 1
  1. 1.Flinders University of South AustraliaAdelaideAustralia

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