Bridging Boundaries in British Migration History
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Honouring the legacy of Eric Richards’s work in an interplay of academic essays and personal accounts

This memorial book honours the legacy of Eric Richards’s work in an interplay of academic essays and personal accounts of Eric Richards. Following the Eric Richards methodology, it combines micro- and macro-perspectives of British migration history and covers topics such as Scottish and Irish diasporas, religious, labour and wartime migrations.

Eric Richards was an international leading historian of British migration history and a pioneer at exploring small- and large-scale migrations. His last public intervention, given in Amiens, France, in September 2018, opens the book. It is preceded by a tribute from David Fitzpatrick and Ngaire Naffine’s eulogy. This book brings together renowned scholars of British migration history. The book combines local and global migrations as well as economic and social aspects of nineteenth and twentieth century British migration history.

List of Illustrations; Acknowledgements; Eric Richards: A Personal Tribute, David Fitzpatrick; Eulogy for Eric, Ngaire Naffine; Introduction; Chapter 1 Eric Richards, Positionality and Migration History, Marie Ruiz; Chapter 2 Emigration at Extremes, Eric Richards; PART I MACRO- HISTORY OF MIGRATION Chapter 3 The Distinctive Scottish Diaspora, John M. MacKenzie; Chapter 4 Religion and Convict Emigration: The Probation System in Australia, Hilary M. Carey; Chapter 5 Cypriot Emigration, 1820s–1930s: Economic Motivations within Local and Global Migration Patterns, Andrekos Varnava; Chapter 6 British Colonial Migration in the Nineteenth Century: The Short Route, Bernard Porter; PART II MICRO- HISTORY OF MIGRATION; Chapter 7 A Controversial Scottish Pioneer in New Zealand: James MacAndrew and the Identity of Otago, Marjory Harper; Chapter 8 ‘Empire Made Me?’ English Lower-Middle-Class Migrants and Expatriates, 1860–1930, A. James Hammerton; Chapter 9 Irish Immigrants and the Middle Class in Colonial New Zealand, 1890–1910, Jim McAloon; Chapter 10 ‘We Shall Have a Fine Holiday’: Imperial Sentiment, Unemployment and the 1928 Miner- Harvester Scheme to Canada, Kent Fedorowich; Notes on Contributors; Index.



Publié par
Date de parution 28 septembre 2020
Nombre de lectures 0
EAN13 9781785275197
Langue English

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Bridging Boundaries in British Migration History
Bridging Boundaries in British Migration History
In Memoriam Eric Richards
Edited by Marie Ruiz
Anthem Press
An imprint of Wimbledon Publishing Company
This edition first published in UK and USA 2020
75–76 Blackfriars Road, London SE1 8HA, UK
or PO Box 9779, London SW19 7ZG, UK
244 Madison Ave #116, New York, NY 10016, USA
© 2020 Marie Ruiz editorial matter and selection;
individual chapters © individual contributors
The moral right of the authors has been asserted.
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.
British Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
Library of Congress Control Number: 2020946120
ISBN-13: 978-1-78527-517-3 (Hbk)
ISBN-10: 1-78527-517-8 (Hbk)
This title is also available as an e-book.
To all who knew and admired Eric Richards
List of Illustrations
Eric Richards: A Personal Tribute
David Fitzpatrick
Eulogy for Eric
Ngaire Naffine
Chapter 1 Eric Richards, Positionality and Migration History
Marie Ruiz
Chapter 2 Emigration at Extremes
Eric Richards
Chapter 3 The Distinctive Scottish Diaspora
John M. MacKenzie
Chapter 4 Religion and Convict Emigration: The Probation System in Australia
Hilary M. Carey
Chapter 5 Cypriot Emigration, 1820s–1930s: Economic Motivations within Local and Global Migration Patterns
Andrekos Varnava
Chapter 6 British Colonial Migration in the Nineteenth Century: The Short Route
Bernard Porter
Chapter 7 A Controversial Scottish Pioneer in New Zealand: James MacAndrew and the Identity of Otago
Marjory Harper
Chapter 8 ‘Empire Made Me?’ English Lower-Middle-Class Migrants and Expatriates, 1860–1930
A. James Hammerton
Chapter 9 Irish Immigrants and the Middle Class in Colonial New Zealand, 1890–1910
Jim McAloon
Chapter 10 ‘We Shall Have a Fine Holiday’: Imperial Sentiment, Unemployment and the 1928 Miner-Harvester Scheme to Canada
Kent Fedorowich
Notes on Contributors
1.1 Eric Stapleton Richards (1940–2018)
6.1 Ford Madox Brown (1821–93), The Last of England (1855)
5.1 Population growth, 1881–1921
5.2 Employment and unemployment numbers, 1891–1921
5.3 Entries and departures, 1931–38
5.4 Population growth, 1921–60
9.1 Birthplace, Cyclopedia biographies
9.2 Cyclopedia and census birthplace compared: Named groups only
9.3 Irish province of birth percentages
9.4 New Zealand residence of Cyclopedia Irish-born
9.5 Occupations of the Irish-born as recorded in Cyclopedia
9.6 Occupations, Ulster and the rest of Ireland
9.7 Estate valuations, sample of Cyclopedia , £ in 1950 values
9.8 Place of birth: Average and median wealth
10.1 Number of applicants
My thanks go to all the contributors to this volume who have enthusiastically accepted to pay tribute to Eric Richards and to honour his legacy in British migration history. We share fond memories of the conference held in Amiens in September 2018 (‘Colonial and Wartime Migration, 1815–1914’) where most papers were presented, along with Eric’s keynote presentation.
I would like to express my deep gratitude to Ngaire Naffine for sharing her eulogy with us in this volume, for providing the photograph of Eric inserted in introduction and for having Eric’s last paper formatted for publication. This leads me to extend my thanks to Robert Fitzsimons for undertaking the formatting of Eric’s keynote talk at the Amiens conference.
My deepest thanks go to David Fitzpatrick who wrote a very touching foreword to this volume in the very last weeks of his life, while he was fighting against illness. This demonstration of true friendship is invaluable. His legacy will stand the test of time, as will Eric’s.
Additionally, I owe a great deal of thanks to the Université de Picardie Jules Verne for funding the index of this volume, and to Mélanie Torrent for reading the introduction before final submission. I would also like to thank the Glasgow Museum for granting me reduced licence fees and copyright permission to use The Last of the Clan by Thomas Faed as cover image for this volume.
In memory of Eric, all royalties from this memorial volume will be donated to the Multiple Sclerosis Society.
David Fitzpatrick
Readers of this collection of scholarly studies on migration do not need to be told of Eric’s unsurpassed mastery of the widely neglected English diaspora, his seemingly effortless intellectual sweep, or his adroitness in juxtaposing general findings with telling individual narratives. These qualities were all evident at the conference in his honour that gave rise to this book, followed so soon by his shocking and sudden death in London. I could not attend, being gravely ill myself, but was later able to watch the proceedings on video. I imagined that I was there with Eric and exchanging glances with him in the lecture room, along with so many of his friends and mine. It never occurred to me that September that it would be my lot to bid Eric farewell.
We were friends and collaborators for over 30 years, brought together by our obsessive desire to make sense of ‘mass’ migration and find some way of sifting through that mass and recovering its individuality, with all the consequent quirks and aberrations. We were particularly interested in looking at unfamiliar sub-strands to set beside the trans-Atlantic diaspora, and (along with Richard Reid) initiated a series of slim volumes entitled Visible Immigrants to uncover neglected sources for migration to Australia. This required me (I was far from reluctant) to make many brief visits to the Australian National University (ANU) and Flinders University so that we could plan and execute our next moves in the struggle for scholarly enlightenment. The small workshops generating that series have continued intermittently and did much to revive interest in the field.
We began with the thorny challenge of emigrant letters, so rich individually yet so hazardous to use as the basis of generalizations about the migratory experience. Eric was a devotee of Charlotte Erickson’s classic Invisible Immigrants , which stood alone for so long in British diaspora studies in its incisive use of personal testimony. We amassed vast quantities of letters through appeals in Australia, abstracting and transcribing many of them during my longest spell at the ANU in 1990–91. Eric was always the sceptic, I the optimist intent on converting a non-sample into a sample by some magic formula. That dynamic never disappeared and, I think, was stimulating for both of us in our separate studies. Eric convinced Cornell University Press that they should publish our twin studies of the letters of Irish and English emigrants in Australia, but in the event only mine came to fruition. The usable Irish sources were just about manageable, but the vastly greater correspondence confronting Eric defied even his formidable powers of organization. But, being Eric, he found countless ways to use many of these letters to powerful illustrative effect.
In later years, I drifted away from migration studies, but we continued to meet regularly in Adelaide and at conferences. Quite recently, as I embarked on a study of return migration to Ireland, our active interests reconverged. Many excessively scholarly friendships would long since have withered, but that never happened if your friend was Eric Richards, as his countless devoted friends in many countries know. This was partly because of his extraordinary tenderness and consideration, his boundless but discreet curiosity and retentiveness, and his ability – never fully masked by the sceptical tone and raised eyebrow – to touch the heart. In our case, as in many others, that involved trying to arrange tennis whenever we met. Though always urbane and immensely enjoyable, these contests were not devoid of competitiveness (perhaps more overt than in our academic work). In tennis too, we had contrasting styles, each unconventional: he was all arms and legs and adept at sallies and interceptions, while I plugged away in back court trying to outmanoeuvre him. Eric did not like losing, and seldom did against me. But on a couple of occasions when I was injured, his response was sweet and sure as he procured an ice-pack or rushed me to a university medical centre. Apart from genuine compassion, he wanted me fully restored for further combat at the first possible moment.
From the very start, our friendship had another dimension, which has become ever more important to me over the years. Ngaire Naffine has been Eric’s besotted and beloved partner and wife throughout that period, a connection not destructible by death. Within our friendship triangle, one of the enduring bonds between Ngaire and myself was and remains music, especially through mini-recitals in which I accompanied her flute performances of Telemann or Bach (she had more eclectic interests and helped me to broaden my musical range). When we played in the evening in their beautiful home in Brighton by the sea, Eric would allow us to warm up before slipping into the music room, where he would sit quietly, respond courteously and observe attentively. My visits to Brighton, more frequent over the past five years or so, were among my happiest experiences. However low I might be feeling on arrival, I would leave restored and full of hope. Both Eric and Ngaire have enhanced my life and the lives of all who have known them.
And so, my dear friend, farewell.
Ngaire Naffine
Eric died as he lived – with simplicity, style and without fuss – in London, just off the train from Paris, and a brilliant working holiday in France.
After a shared pastrami sandwich, half a pint of beer and while reading the paper in one of our favourite Bloomsbury haunts, Freddies Bar of William Goodenough College, Eric’s great light went out in just a minute. I lost the love of my life and the world lost a remarkable man.
I met Eric almost exactly 40 years ago in Sydney when I was giving my first conference paper on women and crime, and Eric was one of a small number of new men attending this mainly female gathering.
Eric’s inimitable chat-up line, from the audience, was ‘Do you have any empirical evidence for your argument?’ Already a theorist, the truth was I had very little.
By the next day, I had fallen in love with this fascinating man who offered such a big and wonderful world of thought and feeling and sheer fun, but who saw the need for solid footnotes.
Eric had an agile mind and body, and a big heart. He had an endless humane curiosity. He was interested in everyone and the fine details of their lives – what made them tick; where they had come from; what moved them to leave home; and why they were now talking to Eric, say in a taxi or a restaurant or anywhere at all.
And this intense interest in people was reflected in his prodigious and elegant scholarship that helped to explain the lives, motivations and movements of so many finely drawn individuals and then of the millions, and even billions, as they roamed across the planet.
Eric’s last very fine paper, in Amiens, northern France, was on small and big history, a typically large subject. He believed in work of great scale, but never lost sight of the human being. In his little cabin at the bottom of our garden, Eric was explaining the world.
In the many long and eloquent tributes that came tumbling in, Eric was described over and again as a gentleman, a distinguished scholar, as humble, as a dedicated sportsman and as simply a lovely man, an encourager of others.
And this was my experience of him too. He was my great mentor and love and lover, a kind and thoughtful man, and a feminist who believed in the equality and dignity of all. Every day we laughed, sparred, consumed good food and inferior wine. He was a scintillating companion, never boring.
Eric was also engaged in the lives of many others in whom he took a great interest and nurtured. So many of the letters I received said this. He often collaborated; he read, reviewed and commented; and he had enormous projects on the go.
Eric was a subversive and original thinker. Over the years, I attended many of his papers, and always I discovered more about the workings of his fascinating mind.
Eric was also an excellent and experimental cook. Any gift of fruit would be rapidly transformed and bottled. Just one of Eric’s many legacies is a great supply of cumquat marmalade.
I would like to quote from Adam Stephenson who wrote to me after Eric’s death. He said:

You won’t remember me, but even so, I thought you might like to know of the impression made by your husband on a member of the audience at the conference in Amiens two weeks ago. Eric seemed to me both the deepest and the simplest person there, the wisest of our gifted panelists, justly the keynote speaker. Right at the end of his life, he was able to make the neurones fizz, touch the heart and inflect the thinking of at least one person there, as no doubt he had done of many before. A gift.
Eric’s next speaking engagement was to be at the Sorbonne, an invitation he received soon after the Amiens conference. Eric was definitely on his way to promotion.
Eric passed on his great heart and courage and character to daughters Cindy, who died tragically young; to Lou and to Sally; and also to the grandchildren Stephanie and Bodie.
We will all miss him terribly. He left too quickly and too soon, as he would no doubt agree, but in the thick of things.
Chapter 1
Marie Ruiz

Humanity seems always to have been a mobile species, from its earliest African origins through to its long-term stretchings to the end of the earth. And now we seem more mobile than ever, forever dislocating and relocating within and between countries. Mobility seems like a defining trait of the species, a constant and perpetual shifting of people through each succeeding generation – behaviour so general that it may need no history, an endless predictable seamless spreading of people in all directions. Mobility seems like a non-variable in human affairs, twirling apparently without restraint.
Eric Richards 1
When I invited Eric Richards to speak in Amiens, France, in September 2018, little did I know that one year later I would be writing an introduction to a memorial volume in his honour.
Few historians have been as influential as Eric in British migration history. Between the onset of his career in 1970 and 2018, he published over 140 articles and book chapters, edited at least 10 volumes and completed 12 monographs, which is an impressive total. His canonical groundbreaking Britannia’s Children (2004) has become a bible for historians of the British Empire.
When we met in Paris in the Fall of 2017, I was co-editing a volume on migration crises to which Eric was contributing with one chapter, titled ‘Migrants in Crisis in Nineteenth-Century Britain’. That day, we walked around the Latin quarter and discussed the book. As a freshly graduated associate professor, I was impressed by this commanding figure of British migration history, yet he quickly made me comfortable and we engaged in a very enjoyable discussion challenging ideas and conceptions of migration. As he was exploring the roots of the Anglosphere, he was very interested in visiting our anglophone studies departments in France and learning about our use of the term ‘anglophone’ – in an academic system that is very different from English-speaking universities.

Figure 1.1 Eric Stapleton Richards (1940–2018). Courtesy of Ngaire Naffine.
Although I had never met him before, he had already made a great impression on me not only through his remarkable work but also by generously agreeing to write an endorsement for my first book’s cover (as did James Hammerton, who read the whole manuscript before publication and provided precious advice). Eric was certainly a scholar with an impressive knowledge and critical mind, and he was also curious, always eager to challenge viewpoints and approaches. He has been described as a role model for early-career historians of migration, which he certainly was, never failing to gently support and inspire young scholars. Undoubtedly a brilliant mind, he is also remembered for his kindness, gentle and encouraging approach to scholarship. He was one of the most renowned and respected figures of the history of the British Empire, not only because of the quality of his work but also because of his uncontested personal qualities. A most praised element of his personality was his humbleness. I remember telling him how important his work was for the advancement of research in migration history, to which he humbly replied, ‘I am only an unknown Australian historian.’
As we moved through the city of Paris that day in September 2017, we decided to organize a conference in France the following year and to invite speakers fascinated by experiences of migration. The ‘Colonial and Wartime Migration (1815–1918)’ conference, whose videos are now available online, 2 took place in Amiens on 13–14 September 2018. Eric was obviously the keynote speaker, and he gave an outstanding presentation on small- and large-scale migrations, revealing the links between the history of migration from St Kilda and major mass migration movements. He thus showed how small and large migrations inform each other in an interplay of structural forces, as well as a variety of common migration patterns. This memorial volume gathers chapters from the Amiens conference talks.
Eric Richards’s Positionality
Eric was intrigued by the migrants’ reasons for departure, their motivations and choices of destinations, as well as the mysteries of their personal and communal stories in their new world. His knowledge production as a historian of migration was undoubtedly impacted by his personal history and background – his positionality, which Paula Moya defines as the interplay of factors that determine our knowledge production: ‘How our identities predispose us to see or not see; listen to or not listen to; read or not read; cite or not cite; concern ourselves or not concern ourselves with specific Other peoples, issues, and societal dynamics.’ 3
Eric was born in 1940 in North Wales, and experiences of migration ran in the family early on. His grandfather was a farmer drawn from his agricultural environment to the closest town, as a consequence of declining agricultural activity and economic pressures. We learn from his last book, The Genesis of International Mass Migration (2018), that his grandparents were farmers in Wales until the 1930s–40s. A large family of five and eight children on each side, Eric already had uncles and relatives across the Anglosphere by the First World War. Family holdings, such as a farm near Wrexham, were lost in the Great Depression, which initiated the family’s urban relocation. 4 So, economic pressure moved his family from rural Wales to the largest town, Wrexham, and then to England, Shropshire; and this personal experience of economic migration undoubtedly yielded his fascination for migration processes, as well as his interest in the Highland Clearances. 5 This familial pattern of migration was later transmitted to Eric’s own daughters ‘dispersed’ on three continents, a dispersal exemplary of the British people’s scattering off the land, according to him. 6
Before turning to migration history, Eric studied economic history at Nottingham University, a first-generation college student. His passion led him to a PhD on the Sutherland family in the Midlands and Scotland, later to be published under the title The Leviathan of Wealth , his first book in 1973 7 (as well as an earlier article from 1970 in Scottish Historical Review ). 8 In 1963, he obtained a tutorship in economics at the University of Adelaide, South Australia, and migrated as a Ten Pound Pom. After a temporary return to Europe (Scotland), Eric settled for good in Adelaide in 1971 – he was thus a ‘boomerang’ migrant as the Australians would say.
Reflecting on historians’ positionality in books edited by Philip Payton and Pat Hudson, 9 Eric wrote essays that allow us to explore his own personal history of migration today, a task that he was himself engaged in with migrants’ letters and testimonies. ‘There was a distinct exodus to Australia of which I was a part, leaving for Adelaide as a graduate in 1962,’ 10 he wrote in 2001. In this autobiographical essay, Eric came back to his adolescence and described himself as an ‘adolescent economic determinist […] already seduced by Marx, Tawney and the New Statesman . I seemed to know that economic forces ruled the world.’ 11 This was how Eric was naturally drawn to social and economic history from a very young age. According to him, ‘to understand and influence the world, Economic History was clearly the most important field to explore.’ 12 The first in his family to attend university, he was thus given access to the keys to unlock the mysteries of his own family history, the impact of industrialization on farming communities having led his family to experience rural exodus, displacement and uprootedness. According to Moya, ‘scholarly production is structured by an unacknowledged logic of identity.’ 13 In 2001, he confided:

In 1940 only 5% of the British workforce was left in agriculture. Out of generations of small farmers and agricultural labourers in North Wales, my own father and mother had taken the path from the cottage and village to the local town (Wrexham) as part of this great historical disjunction and transition. I was conscious of being virtually the last to depart the land at the end of one of the critical processes in Economic History. 14
This ‘agrarian transition’ found echo with the impact of industrialization on the Highland Clearances, which he was drawn to investigate from an economic angle once in Australia and then as a return migrant back in Britain with a position at the University of Stirling in 1967. Back again in Adelaide and at Flinders University in 1971, Eric set up to apply his training in economic history to social history. His natural curiosity and generosity were going to lead him to explore compelling aspects of social history, such as minorities and aboriginality, 15 or feminism and the role of women in the Industrial Revolution. 16
Progressively unveiling the consequences of economic progress on social concerns led him to the biography of Patrick Sellar, an architect of massive Highlands evictions in the 1810s. Eric was mostly interested in the social consequences of economic and societal engineering processes and changes brought about by industrialization and landlordism. Not only drawn to the history of aristocracy and its impact on social economic matters, he also published on history from below, 17 and called for a re-evaluation and redefinition of the polysemic term ‘progress’, which he undertook as early as 1971 with an article published in Scottish Studies 18 and later with Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Homicide, Evictions and the Price of Progress (1999). He could thus partly decipher the mysteries of mass migration. In 2001, he wrote:

My own work at present is given special meaning by the underlying and still mysterious connections between rural displacement, the demographic upsurge of the late eighteenth century, and the phenomenon of mass migration, especially in its international dimensions. 19
In keeping with his deep interest for small and large migration histories, he added that ‘having collected hundreds of individual accounts of emigrants from the British Isles, the trick is now to relate them to the wider structures of change.’ 20 An estimated 1.6 million immigrants reached Australia in the nineteenth century, 21 a figure that may explain Eric’s curiosity and wish to understand the reasons why – a century before he did so – European migrants decided to move to Australia. For him, the Australian case was exemplary of global migration trends in the long nineteenth century. 22
Eric simply summarized his experience of migration as that of

an ordinary specimen, my own migratory career brought me from a farm labourer’s cottage in deepest rural wartime North Wales eventually to an Australian university in the 1960s, with much mobilities between times. 23
An academicus mobilis 24 himself, as he called ultra-mobile academics, he clearly experienced and documented his own study object, and this was his positionality.
As a true academic and personal passion, migration even came to be of interest to Eric when his daughter was treated at the Epilepsy Center of the Austin Hospital in Melbourne in November 2007. This very personal story Eric shared with his readers in the preface to Destination Australia (2008). 25 As it happens, the whole medical team seemed to have been gathered as a perfect case study for a migration scholar. Beyond their reputed medical expertise, those distinguished specialists indeed ran the gamut of modern Australia’s multiculturalism, with practitioners from eastern Europe, Hungary, Pacific Islands, Greece, China, Zambia, Nigeria, England, and there was even a Highland Scot and an Irishman to complete this interesting multitude, with patients from New Zealand, Germany and Italy. In such a context, Eric both stood as a concerned father and a fascinated migration scholar.
His own daughters were exemplary modern mobile Australians, as one came from Ireland and the other one from New Zealand. He described his eldest daughter as a ‘true hero’, whose re-migration to Australia was almost prevented because of her condition, but who successfully defeated migration restrictions because she was Adelaide-born in the first place. Eric concluded by stressing the transformations in Australian society since 1901 – marked by the beginning of the White Australia policy – when such a multicultural scene would have been inconceivable. Later in the book, he described Australia in 1906 as ‘“British Australia” monocultural and monolingual’. 26
This very personal story, which Eric humbly shared with his readers, also accounts for his positionality as a migration historian. At the 2015 Eric Richards Symposium, he spoke of ‘Emigrants and Historians,’ 27 which he both was, as most of us are in the field. Memorial volumes are invitations to reflect on positionality – how we position ourselves within our field of study and our work – yet, more broadly, as human beings interacting with men and women we get to admire not only for their work but also for themselves. As such, our position as academics and our work are greatly influenced by our background, identity, personal choices and the friendships we make. Writing history often comes from our own history, but in this memorial volume, our writing of history mainly comes from our relationship to Eric.
Academic Friendships
Eric was professor of history at Flinders University from 1971 to 2012, when he retired. A remarkable academic, he was also a very kind and gentle man whose friendships led to outstanding partnerships and writings. In 2017, the first ‘Eric Richards Symposium in British and Australasian History’ was organized in his honour at Flinders University by Andrekos Varnava. It gathered historians of the British Empire, among which were friends and contributors to this volume such as David Fitzpatrick, James Hammerton and Marjory Harper. Eric’s academic friendships were also sealed on the tennis court with Andrekos Varnava and David Fitzpatrick, among others.
Such partnerships led to co-authored writings such as the ‘Visible Immigrants’ series that welcomed collaborative works with friends and colleagues like David Fitzpatrick and James Hammerton. Eric was indeed fascinated by migration processes, what prompted departures, as well as the peopling of receiving lands, and the series was meant to unveil the significance of mass migration processes as well as individual lives to make visible invisible migrants. This collaborative effort culminated in the publication of seven co-authored books in the series. 28 As such, his fascination for oral testimonies also led Eric Richards to exchange ideas and co-edit a volume with James Hammerton in 2002 ( Speaking to Immigrants: Oral Testimony and the History of Australian Migration ).
In this introduction, I want to take the opportunity to pay tribute to another esteemed scholar of migration, David Fitzpatrick (1948–2019). The story of these two scholars is also a story of academic and personal friendship like those which make our field and our job enviable. Eric and David met in the late 1980s and later worked together on the ‘Visible Immigrants’ series. As military historian Jane Leonard, David’s widow, recently told me: ‘Their relationship involved a lot of banter, good food, wine, music and tennis. David loved the camaraderie as well as the intellectual buzz of those Visible Immigrants workshops.’ David was often described as the most influential Irish historian of his generation, which he certainly was, as he is also remembered for producing provocative works on Irish history. A Melbourne-born Irish-Australian, he graduated from Melbourne University in 1969 and then completed a remarkable PhD thesis marked by masterful use of statistical tools at Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1974. This he published as early as 1977 ( Politics and Irish Life 1913–21: Provincial Experiences of War and Revolution ). Between 1975 and 1979, David held postdoctoral research fellowships at Nuffield College, Oxford, and at Melbourne University. This ‘boomerang’ migrant returned permanently to Europe in 1979 when appointed to a lectureship in modern Irish history at Trinity College Dublin, until he retired in 2015. His work betrayed his deep insight into emotional narratives of Irish history. As such, he widened the scope of Irish historiography.
Eric was fascinated by migrant letters, as was David. Oceans of Consolation. Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (1994) was a groundbreaking attempt at bringing to life nineteenth-century Irish migrants, at revealing their patterns of migration through the study of their correspondence but, above all, at listening to the voices of migrants in a display of empathy that makes the best historians. In 1995, he took the task further and allowed RTÉ radio listeners to have access to oralized migrant letters with the broadcast of dramatized excerpts from letters extracted from Oceans of Consolation introduced by David and read by actors from the precise counties where the emigrants originated, thus pushing the attention to detail to the utmost level of realism with the migrants’ local accents. David’s work on migration was grounded in thorough and meticulous analyses of Irish migration processes. Oceans of Consolation not only dipped into the migrants’ personal lives but also unveiled the structural forces that uprooted so many Irishwomen and men in such a short period of time in the nineteenth century – mostly around the Great Famine. Eric and David were both intrigued by what migrant letters can reveal, but also what they conceal from historians. Although incomplete, often unrepresentative of all migrants, they nevertheless give a voice to invisible migrants such as those ‘writers with little education and less property’ 29 that fascinated David.
Oceans of Consolation is a masterpiece that offers an impressive display of linguistic and cultural tools to decipher Irish migrants’ correspondence, and to make sense of the distinctive characteristics of migrants’ letter writing. Both Eric and David were frustrated by the obstacles that migration historians face when trying to untangle the mysteries of past population movements. As David put it, ‘migration is a universal human experience, so vast and complex that it defies satisfactory representation’. 30 Above all, David was interested in the lives of people – mostly ordinary invisible people – whose existences he was eager to bring to light and whose lives he sought to tell. An outstanding common feature of these remarkable historians is that they challenged the patriarchal tradition of male-dominated histories of the British Empire before the gender turn. As early as the 1970s, they documented the experiences of women and unveiled the presence of female migrants, thus accounting for the impact of female actresses in the Empire-building process – not only a male field – with such categories of women as female convicts, Irishwomen and female emigration organizers, among others. 31
I never met David, but I evolved as a scholar with his books. As a master’s student in Irish history living in Northern Ireland for a year, Oceans of Consolation was a commanding partner to my year abroad. Already as a young researcher, I was fascinated by the talent of David Fitzpatrick. I was eventually going to meet him in Amiens in September 2018, yet he announced that he was sick the preceding summer, writing from the hospital in Belfast. I was lucky enough to communicate with him via e-mails over that period, and am now in touch with his widow, Jane Leonard. At the end of his life, he was ‘writing furiously’, as he wrote in an e-mail on 16 September 2018, to finish his books on how return migration from America altered Irish culture and society – two books that will be treasured by admirers of David Fitzpatrick’s work, as I am. Just before his death in February 2019, he managed to complete The Americanisation of Ireland: Migration and Settlement, 1841–1925 (Cambridge University Press), and a companion volume, The Americanisation of Ireland: Culture and Society, 1841–1925 (to be edited by Dr Fionnuala Walsh), will include further unpublished work by David.
These two renowned scholars’ fascination for individual invisible migrants is reflected in the specific methodologies that they both developed to decipher the mysteries of migration history. In the case of Eric, his combination of large- and small-scale migration processes has generated the admiration of his fellow historians.
The Eric Richards Methodology
Eric was fascinated by the interplay between macro- and micro-history, and how structural forces affected personal experiences of migration, and this was the Eric Richards methodology. Without minimizing the importance of regional or national characteristics, he was interested in inserting small groups within wider migration processes and patterns. He thus explored research theories, concepts and tools to illuminate the history of the British Empire. His micro-history approach, grounded on specific case studies, allowed him to disclose the diversity of migrant profiles and migration experiences. Indeed, he had at heart to make visible the invisible migrants, the unprivileged whose experiences of migration yet significantly inform historians on mass migration patterns. As such, Eric was one of the major contributors to migration theory, skilfully combining micro- and macro-analyses of the British diaspora.
His work on population movements at local, regional, national but also European levels is a case in point. For instance, the microscopic case of 36 St Kildans’ traumatic evacuation to Australia in 1852 raised two major questions that were at the core of Eric’s interest in migration history: the reasons that precipitated their departure (demographic, political and economic pressures) and the influence of local landlords on their fate. As such, he remarkably combined his skills in social and economic history to explore the Highland Clearances and global migration processes.
Beyond micro- and macro-analyses of migration history, Eric also studied infrastructures of migration, such as migration societies and brokers – at the meso-level between the authorities and the migrants – like the Highland and Island Emigration Society’s assistance to evicted farmers during the Highland Clearances. 32 His meso-level analyses of infrastructures of migration allowed him to enquire on the structural forces at play in the Scots’ displacement. He thus made visible the creators of migration at the meso-level between decision-makers and the migrants themselves. Eric was mostly interested in the shared experiences of migration; and for him, the Highland Clearances represented a microcosm exemplary of the global agrarian society’s hardships and its difficult adaptation to modernity. In Debating the Highland Clearance (2007), he blamed ‘the demands and costs of development which confront all peasant societies in the modern era.’ 33
In combining micro- and macro-perspectives of migration history, Eric both showed common national features of British migration history but also the paramount importance of regional differences and group processes in British imperial settlement. To the question and ongoing challenge for historians – ‘Who were British migrants?’ – Eric Richards accurately responded:

The most pervasive aspect of British emigration was its sheer diversity and heterogeneity. Virtually every stratagem imaginable was employed in the creation of great flows of people out of the British Isles. Representatives of all parts of British life are to be found in the emigration account. Any kind of taxonomy of the diaspora is tantalizingly difficult: practically every family was represented including those of well-known novelists, economists, trade unionists, gentry, and even the lesser aristocracy. British emigration was so huge and diverse that it contained all varieties. 34
As he evoked at the Amiens conference, studying migrants’ letters can be frustrating for historians when these testimonies fail to reveal the expected information on the structural pressures, migrants’ global resources and outcomes of migration. As he wrote in 2016, ‘individual experience is by definition atomistic: individual testimony is often unrepresentative and highly selective.’ 35 Two factors that Eric was most aware of – testimonies, oral as well as written, are biased and are the product of the literate. Above all, he found letters ‘disappointing’ about the genesis of migration, the reasons for departure and migrants’ motivation, unrevealing of what prompted the decision to leave, whereas letter writers were not usually as shy when describing the infrastructures of migration, or technical aspects of the experience such as departure conditions, the voyage and reception, for instance. He acknowledged their precious informative value for historians of individual and group migration processes, mechanisms and international systems of mobility.
The impact of structural forces on individual migrants is illustrated by this memorial volume’s cover image, The Last of the Clan , by Thomas Faed, exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1865 and accompanied by the following note from the author: ‘When the steamer had slowly backed out, and John MacAlpine had thrown off the hawser [rope], we began to feel that our once powerful clan was now represented by a feeble old man and his granddaughter, who, together with some outlying kith-and-kin, myself among the number, owned not a single blade of grass in the glen that was once all our own.’ 36 In Britannia’s Children , Eric referred to this painting as the perfect iconographic representation of Scottish migration as a tragedy, unchosen, involuntary, and forced upon the Scots by structural pressure, especially during the Highland Clearances, 37 although, as Eric regularly underlined, there is a degree of volition in all migration processes. A source of inspiration, references to The Last of the Clan are to be found in some of his works and more specifically in an article from 2003 titled ‘The Last of the Clan and Other Highland Emigrants.’ 38 Thomas Faed’s painting therefore stood as a perfect illustration to Eric’s memorial volume.
Major Works
Eric was a very prolific writer, and not all his works can be evoked in detail here, but the above presentation is going to be completed with accounts of his major publications. As early as his very first book, Eric showed an interest for the interplay between structural forces and individual experiences of migration. The Leviathan of Wealth: The Sutherland Fortune in the Industrial Revolution (1973) is a study of the local aristocracy that was related to his own family history as Eric’s family settled in Shropshire, which was mostly owned by the marquis of Stafford whose estate records in the local archive fed Eric’s passion for social and economic history. There he was able to lead a meticulous and thorough investigation of the Stafford and extended Sutherland fortunes. These were going to lead to the publication of major studies on the interplay between industrialization, the Highland Clearances and migration: The Highland Clearances (1982, 1985), The Highland Clearances: People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil (2000), and Debating the Highland Clearances (2007), as well as the biography of a major actor of the clearances, Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Eviction, Homicide and the Price of Progress (1999). Through these remarkable studies, he unveiled the political economy at play in the clearances as well as the impact of landlordism on the Highlands.
Such works as ‘Quantifying New Zealand’s Scots’ 39 published in 2016 testify to Eric’s interest in invisible migrants, the pressures or reasons for their departure, their motivations, backgrounds and conditions of migration. He was influenced by Charlotte Erickson’s statistical work on shipping lists and her use of social, age, regional and professional taxonomies of migrants. Both were fascinated by typical traits of the nineteenth-century migrants, yet such common characteristics are uneasy, or even impossible, to find on account of the diversity of migrants’ profiles, as Eric convened in his last book: ‘Human migration is often elusive, always difficult to categorise and to measure, often barely visible, commonly cloaked and unofficial.’ 40 He was fascinated by why and how people migrated. 41
His groundbreaking Britannia’s Children (2004) was a manifest of his talent at bringing together micro- and macro-level analyses. St Kilda served as micro-analysis in his last public intervention in Amiens (September 2018) and was also the first case study developed in Britannia’s Children . Starting as early as 1600, Eric masterfully combined micro-analyses with larger group processes of about 25 million people. He encompassed individual, regional and national levels to unveil local pressures and conditions of departure. As he later did in his last book, The Genesis of International Mass Migration: The British Case 1750–1900 (2018), he extended his study to European mass migration to make the case for the singularity and global impact of British migration. Studying individual and structural forces, he also took into account intermediaries, migration brokers and infrastructures of migration. Above all, he showed the impressive diversity of migration patterns and also proved that most migrants were not destitute but made an informed choice for betterment migration.
His last book undoubtedly was his masterpiece as he drew closer to explaining the roots of migration processes. He not only encompassed a global approach to British migration history but also a longue durée period in an attempt to deduce taxonomies of migrants and make sense of their backgrounds and migration conditions. Starting with the immobility that mostly marked the premodern period, The Genesis of International Mass Migration (2018) then tackles the nineteenth century and finally the modern era. Eric identifies the birth of modern migration in the 1820s – Britain standing as a ‘prototype for the modern world’ 42 – a decade marked by a major shift from previous ‘stagnation’ in human mobility to ensuing discontinuity in migration flows, with periods of intensified migration intersected with breaks. He contends that ‘the beginnings of mass emigration […] were located in the British Isles in the 1820s’. 43 Starting with micro-level analyses of migration from the Isle of Man, Guernsey and the Hebrides – completed by regional analysis of West Sussex, Shropshire, West Cork, Swaledale, West Wales, Cornwall, Kent, London and the Midlands among others – and individual case studies such as farmer Thomas Kelly from rural Isle of Man, Eric delineates extensive taxonomies of migrants and migration patterns with a display of the structural pressures that triggered the decision to leave, the conditions of departure, arrival and transnational outlook of microscopic case studies which are remarkable revealers of mass migration patterns. He concludes that ‘emigration was often unpredictable, sporadic, unplanned, temperamental and unstructured, frequently subject to whims and enthusiasms or crises in the lives of individuals or even communities.’ 44
His prosopographic approach to the British mass migration is of outstanding precision and accuracy. The objective of his last book was to explain the historical roots of modern changes in the British Isles. He was looking for common features to explain migration, and as he put it: ‘If we could identify the common elements in those emigrating we might be able to show the essential springs which prompted their acts of expatriation. This task is extraordinarily difficult.’ 45 He concurred with Charlotte Erickson that most migrants were not economic migrants, and that heterogeneity was a central feature of nineteenth-century migration flows, hence rendering the general label of ‘economic migrants’ inappropriate when British migration history was marked by such boundless variety of migrants’ profiles. Besides, the book includes a remarkable analysis of Malthus’s position on migration, 46 including demography, relief, migrants’ psychology but also a criticism of his pessimism and mathematical mistakes. Trying to decipher the mysteries of the genesis of mass migration involves European case studies and the attempt to find coherence across continental mobility, as well as common origins, explanations and relations with the British case. According to him, one explanation of migration was that it was a response to structural dislocations. 47
He explained the genesis of mass migration as a consequence of ‘population growth and rural change.’ 48 In a chapter published posthumously, ‘British Emigrants and the Making of the Anglosphere: Some Observations and a Case Study’, 49 he focussed on the Anglosphere settlement by the British diaspora to unveil the structural forces at play in Britain’s migration history between the seventeenth and twentieth centuries. He thus combined his skills in economic history, national and regional demographics and statistics, but also included individual case studies of south Australian immigrant families such as emigrant labourers.
At the end of his career, he also tackled contemporary concerns such as the construction of so-called migration crises, 50 a theme that he evoked in his keynote presentation in Amiens when he deconstructed the use of water imagery that reifies migration as an anomaly and generates popular panic and fear of migration. In his paper ‘Migrants Spilling over Borders,’ 51 he explored the origins and development of mass international migration and its reception, and his chapter published in The Oxford Handbook of Migration Crises focussed on migrants in crisis. 52 He contended that migration is generally influenced by the wish for betterment and is hardly accessible to the poorest fringes of society. Unveiling the socioeconomic origins and genesis of migration, he described the fear of migration as a construction which has led to today’s migration ‘crises’. He summed up the recurring patterns of migration and engaged in a compelling comparison between nineteenth- and twenty-first-century migrations: ‘While the fundamental causes of international mass emigration have remained constant, the context and opportunities for such people crossing borders are now much tighter, and far less accommodating.’ 53
What all of Eric’s books and writings have in common is their remarkable mastery of large volumes of information, sources and data. In Destination Australia (2008), he charted the social, economic and demographic transformations brought about by twentieth-century British immigrants in Australia. Combining personal stories, regional contexts and global migration patterns, he drew groundbreaking conclusions on distinctive Australian group features. The history of this social fabric was also told through the impact of White Australia and assimilation processes in the course of Australia’s national identity building. His interest certainly stemmed from his personal experience as an immigrant in 1963, a personal story which he told in his preface to the book. Beyond his personal autobiographical reflections on knowledge production, his deep interest in personal stories of migration led him to regularly insert migrants’ testimonies of their experiences in their own voices in Destination Australia , and Speaking to Immigrants: Oral Testimony and the History of Australian Migration (edited with James Hammerton), among others.
Eric managed to insert individual stories into wider contexts and to masterfully combine both scales of analysis to reveal the impact of migration’s structural forces on individual lives. Hence, the organization of Bridging Boundaries follows Eric’s methodology with a binary structure mirroring micro- and macro-level analyses of British migration history.
Organization of the Volume
Bridging Boundaries in British Migration History: In Memoriam Eric Richards is an interplay of academic studies and personal accounts of Eric. Its chapters stem from the papers presented at the Amiens conference in September 2018, an event marked by a spirit of conviviality and friendliness, as well as scholarly refinement, which cohered with Eric’s personality.
The volume starts with two very personal papers, David Fitzpatrick’s foreword and Ngaire Naffine’s eulogy. Both these pieces are invaluable as the authors generously share intimate stories of Eric. I feel extremely grateful to David for writing the foreword as he was in the very last weeks of his life; his account of true friendship and mutual respect is treasured. Ngaire’s generosity and kindness are appreciated by all who have met her. Her eulogy is the story of true love.
Eric’s last public intervention opens this book. ‘Migration at Extremes’ is the story of connecting small-scale migration (even microscopic) with mass migration to unveil common patterns and typical traits of nineteenth-century migrants. Starting with the Highland Clearances, Eric then proceeds to unveil characteristics of mass European migration to Australia and America. At the Amiens conference, his presentation was spectacular, a memorable analysis of the roots of migration processes. During the ensuing discussion, he was asked very insightful questions, among which one from Ngaire, and he later told me that the discussion was the most stimulating he had had in his career.
The organization of the volume reflects the Eric Richards methodology with two main parts, the first one focussing on macro-histories of migration, and the second one drawing on micro-case studies in British migration history. All contributors were indeed inspired by and paid tribute to Eric, a remarkable historian and an outstanding colleague and friend.
The first part of the volume focusses on macro-analyses of migration. John MacKenzie’s chapter on the Scottish diaspora draws on the question of its distinctiveness with analyses of the Scots’ presence and experience in South Africa. He proves that the cultural and political influence of the Scots in South Africa accounts for the singularity of the Scottish diaspora. In this chapter, MacKenzie exposes an impressive range of evidence of the Scots’ impact on the civil society, education system, as well as the press and religious organs, among others. All these concur to define their ethnic distinctiveness, of which traces are still to be found today in South Africa. The religious question is then taken up by Hilary Carey in her chapter on the probation system in Australia. She focusses on convict transportation and welfare programmes through the probation scheme, and accordingly applies the Eric Richards methodology with micro-case studies of professionals, reformers and actors of forced migration. The economic motivations and impact of migration are explored by Andrekos Varnava in his essay on Cypriot emigration in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Studying the weight of economic pressures, he exposes a compelling interplay of small and large migrations from Cyprus, and gives an insight into migrants’ backgrounds, their conditions in the sending and receiving countries, at both ends of the migration spectrum. The final essay in this first part is authored by Bernard Porter, who extends the history of nineteenth-century British migration to today’s attitudes to migration. If British imperial migration has been extensively studied, the British diaspora to Continental Europe has not attracted as much scholarly interest, and this is the gap that Porter proposes to fill.
In the second part of Bridging Boundaries in British Migration History: In Memoriam Eric Richards , contributors focus on micro-analyses of Britain’s migration history. Marjory Harper’s work on James MacAndrew, a Scot from Aberdeen in New Zealand, is a case in point as it is exemplary of the Scottish presence and influence in Otago. She uses a micro-case study to account for the persisting Scottishness prevailing in some parts of New Zealand. In that instance, James MacAndrew was representative of large migration trends and shared typical traits with many nineteenth-century Scottish migrants who redefined their Scottish identity in the Antipodean context. This is followed by A. James Hammerton’s chapter on lower-middle-class British migrants with the case studies of William Cooper and Edgar Wilson, exemplary expatriates of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries. They were indeed typical of the global mobility trends at play at the time, their lower-middle-class background being a fundamental trait of imperial settlement. What these two case studies reveal is that the Empire was a place of betterment for lower-middle-class migrants. Middle-class migration is then taken up by Jim McAloon, who draws on a collective biography from the Cyclopedia of New Zealand to account for the fate of the Irish in nineteenth-century New Zealand. Challenging stereotypes, he focusses on a specific group of migrants – the Irish – but also on even smaller local groups, such as the Ulster migrants, and thus defines taxonomies of Irish migrants based on their occupations and wealth. A micro-level analysis, the distinctiveness of the Irish-born colonial middle-class in New Zealand is revealing of mass migration features and larger taxonomies of typical nineteenth-century migrants. Kent Fedorowich concludes this volume with an essay on the internal migration of Canadian harvesters and in-migration of British temporary workers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The study of a microscopic group of Canadian internal migrants includes a meso-level analysis of assisted migration from Britain – unemployed coal miners who were encouraged to try their chances in Canada at a time when both the metropole and Canada were facing economic depression and high unemployment rates, and thus had competing interests involved in this specific migration case.
Hence, all contributors to this volume pay tribute to an outstanding man, historian, colleague and friend, whose last conference in Amiens in 2018 gathered a talented group of migration scholars. Honouring Eric, Bridging Boundaries is the produce of academic friendship and admiration
Eric was a gentleman, whose kindness, humility and generosity is remembered by all who met him. One particular example was told by John Randall in his preface to From Hirta to Port Phillip (2010), as he recalled Eric’s 2009 visit to Scotland’s Western Isles, with his wife Ngaire, and the talk he gave to local school children in Barra. Eric inspired admiration not only as an eminent scholar but also, above all, as a wonderful human being, a kind and caring man, who constantly encouraged and supported students and young scholars. He shared his passion for migration history with humility and endless generosity.
I feel privileged to have met Eric, to have had the most fascinating discussions with him and to have learnt so much from him. For all those who knew Eric or have been inspired by his work, Ford Madox Ford’s The Last of England (the cover of Britannia’s Children ) will never fail to remind us of this commanding figure of British migration history, but also of a gentle and humble man who has inspired respect for his exceptional work as well as his exceptional personality.
Unfortunately, I never met David Fitzpatrick, whose work yet seems to have accompanied me all through my career; starting as a master’s student in Irish history spending a year in Northern Ireland to study pre-famine Irish migration, his masterpiece – Oceans of Consolation (1994) – became my bible. I was privileged to exchange lovely e-mails with David, as he was fighting against illness in the last weeks of his life. A close friend of Eric, David generously wrote the very touching foreword to this volume. A remarkable historian, David has challenged and impacted migration history in so many ways that he will never be forgotten.
I was also fortunate to meet Eric’s wife, Ngaire, Bonython Professor of Law at the University of Adelaide, with whom Eric formed an inspiring couple marked by common intellectual finesse and refinement, as well as bliss. Eric is survived by Ngaire and his two daughters, Louise and Sally; two grandchildren, Stephanie and Bodie; and his sister Marian.
His legacy will stand the test of time.

I would like to acknowledge the financial support of the University of Picardie Jules Verne (Amiens, France) and the CORPUS research group (EA 4295).
1 Eric Richards, The Genesis of International Mass Migration: The British Case, 1750–1900 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018), 2.
2 Université de Picardie Jules Verne, ‘Colonial and Wartime Migration (1815–1914), 13–14 September 2018, (retrieved 10 November 2019).
3 Paula Moya, ‘Who We Are and From Where We Speak’, Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 1, no 2 (2011): 79–94 (79).
4 Richards, The Genesis of International Mass Migration , 2.
5 See Eric Richards, ‘Emigrants and Historians’, in Emigrants and Historians. Essays in Honour of Eric Richards , ed. Philip Payton (Mile End, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2016), 132–56 (9). Callum McCarthy, ‘Eric Richards Obituary’, The Guardian , 26 October 2018, (retrieved 10 November 2019).
6 Richards, The Genesis of International Mass Migration , 2.
7 Eric Richards, The Leviathan of Wealth: The Sutherland Fortune in the Industrial Revolution (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973).
8 Eric Richards, ‘The Prospect of Economic Growth in Sutherland at the Time of the Clearances’, Scottish Historical Review 99, no 148 (October 1970): 154–57.
9 Payton, Emigrants and Historians. Essays in Honour of Eric Richards ; and Pat Hudson (ed.), Living Economic and Social History (Glasgow: Economic History Society, 2001).
10 Eric Richards, ‘The Australian Option’, in Living Economic and Social History , ed. Pat Hudson (Glasgow: Economic History Society, 2001), 302–7 (302).
11 Ibid., 302.
12 Ibid.
13 Moya, ‘Who We Are and From Where We Speak’, 79, original emphasis.
14 Richards, ‘The Australian Option’, 303.
15 See, for instance, Eric Richards, ‘Minorities and Migrants in Australian History’, History Forum 3 (1981): 23–32.
16 See, for instance, Eric Richards, ‘Women in the British Economy since about 1700: An Interpretation’, published as early as 1974 in History as well as Visible Women: Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia (Canberra: Australian National University, 1995); and Eric Richards, ‘Irish Life and Progress in Colonial South Australia’, Irish Historical Studies 27, no 107 (May 1991): 216–36.
17 See, for instance, Eric Richards, ‘History from Below’, Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia 1 (1976): 1–17.
18 Eric Richards, ‘The Mind of Patrick Sellar 1780–1852’, Scottish Studies 15 (1971): 1–20.
19 Richards, ‘The Australian Option’, 305.
20 Ibid.
21 Eric Richards, David Fitzpatrick and Richard Reid, Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration , Visible Immigrants 1 (Canberra: Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1989), 8.
22 Ibid.
23 Richards, ‘Emigrants and Historians’, 132.
24 Ibid., 139.
25 Eric Richards, Destination Australia: Migration to Australia since 1901 (Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2008), xii–xiii.
26 Ibid., 57.
27 Richards, ‘Emigrants and Historians’.
28 With such titles as On the Wing. Mobility before and after Emigration to Australia (2013) edited by Margrette Kleinig and Eric Richards; Speaking to Immigrants: Oral Testimony and the History of Australia Immigration (2002) edited by A. James Hammerton and Eric Richards; The Australian Immigrant in the 20th Century (1998) edited by Eric Richards and Jacqueline Templeton; Visible Women: Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia (1995) edited by Eric Richards; Home or Away? Immigrants in Colonial Australia (1992) edited by David Fitzpatrick; Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century (1991) edited by Eric Richards; Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration (1989) edited by Eric Richards, Richard Reid and David Fitzpatrick.
29 David Fitzpatrick, Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994), vii.
30 Ibid., 3.
31 See note 17 for some of Eric Richards’s publication on the history of women, but also Eric Richards, ‘Women in the British Economy since about 1750: An Interpretation’, in The Woman Question: Readings on the Subordination of Women , ed. Mary Evans (London: Fontana, 1982), 220–86; Eric Richards and Deborah Oxley, ‘Convict Women and Female Immigrants Compared: 1841 – A Turning Point?’ in Visible Women: Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia , ed. Eric Richards (Canberra: Australian National University, 1995), 1–59; Eric Richards and Anne Harraman, ‘If She Was To Be Hard Up She Would Sooner Be Hard Up in a Strange Land Than Where She Would Be Known’, in Irish Women in Colonial Australia , ed. Trevor McClaughlin (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998), 82–115; David Fitzpatrick, ‘Women, Gender and the Writing of Irish History’, Irish Historical Studies 27, no 107 (1991): 267–73; David Fitzpatrick, ‘Divorce and Separation in Modern Irish History’, Past & Present 114, no 1 (February 1987): 172–96; David Fitzpatrick, ‘“A Share of the Honeycomb”: Education, Emigration and Irishwomen’, Continuity and Change 1, no 2 (1986): 217–34; David Fitzpatrick, ‘Marriage in Post-Famine Ireland’, in Marriage in Ireland , ed. A. Cosgrove (Dublin: College Press, 1985), 170–71; David Fitzpatrick, ‘The Modernisation of the Irish Female’, in Rural Ireland, 1600−1900: Modernisation and Change , ed. Patrick O’Flanagan, Paul Ferguson and Kevin Whelan (Cork: Cork University Press, 1987), 166–80; A. James Hammerton, Emigrant Gentlewomen. Genteel Poverty and Female Emigration, 1830–1914 (London: Croom Helm, 1979); A. James Hammerton ‘“Out of Their Natural Station”: Empire and Empowerment in the Emigration of Lower-Class Women’, in Imperial Objects: Victorian Women’s Emigration and the Unauthorised Imperial Experience , ed. Rita Kranidis (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998), 143–70; A. James Hammerton, ‘“Without Natural Protectors”: Female Immigration to Australia, 1832–1836’, Historical Studies 16 (October 1975): 539–66; A. James Hammerton, ‘Feminism and Female Emigration, 1861–1886’, in A Widening Sphere, Changing Roles of Victorian Women , ed. Martha Vicinus (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977), 52–71; A. James Hammerton, ‘Gender and Migration’, in Gender and Empire , ed. Philippa Levine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004), 156–81.
32 See Eric Richards, Debating the Highland Clearances (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).
33 Ibid., 103.
34 Eric Richards, Britannia’s Children: Emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland since 1600 (London and New York: Hambledon & London, 2004), 296.
35 Richards, ‘Emigrants and Historians’, 134.
36 Art UK, (retrieved 20 July 2020).
37 Britannia’s Children , 7.
38 Eric Richards, ‘The last of the clan and other Highland emigrants’, in The Heather and the Fern: Scottish Migration and New Zealand Settlement , ed.Tom Brooking and Jennie Coleman (Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1993), 33–47.
39 Eric Richards, ‘Quantifying New Zealand’s Scots’, History Australia 13, no 3 (September 2016): 448–50. Review of Rebecca Lenihan (ed.), From Alba to Aotearoa: Profiling New Zealand’s Scots Migrants, 1840–1920 (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015).
40 Richards, The Genesis of International Mass Migration , 256.
41 See Eric Richards, ‘How Did Poor People Emigrate from the British Isles to Australia in the Nineteenth Century?’, Journal of British Studies 32, no 3 (July 1993): 250–79.
42 Richards, The Genesis of International Mass Migration , 77.
43 Ibid., 39.
44 Ibid., 34.
45 Ibid., 114.
46 For earlier work on Malthus, see Eric Richards, ‘Malthus and the Uses of British Emigration’, in Empire, Migration and Identity in the British World , ed. Kent Fedorowich and Andrew S. Thompson (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013), 42–59.
47 Ibid., 100.
48 Eric Richards, ‘British Emigrants and the Making of the Anglosphere’, History 103 (2018): 286–306 (305).
49 Eric Richards, ‘British Emigrants and the Making of the Anglosphere: Some Observations and a Case Study’, in Australia, Migration and Empire: Immigrants in a Globalised World , ed. Philip Payton and Andrekos Varnava (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019), 13–43.
50 See, for instance, Eric Richards, ‘Migrants in Crisis in Nineteenth-Century Britain’, in The Oxford Handbook of Migration Crises , ed. Cecilia Menjívar, Marie Ruiz and Immanuel Ness (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), 37–56; Eric Richards, ‘Migrants Spilling over Borders: The Long View’, Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 12, no 1 (March 2019): 27–44.
51 Ibid.
52 Richards, ‘Migrants in Crisis in Nineteenth-Century Britain’.
53 Richards, ‘Migrants Spilling over Borders: The Long View’.
For a complete list of Eric Richards’s publications up until 2016, see Payton, Emigrants and Historians. Essays in Honour of Eric Richards .
Andrews, Megan. ‘Vale Emeritus Professor Eric Richards’. Flinders in Touch , 2 October 2018. . Retrieved 10 November 2019.
Art UK. The Last of the Clan . . Retrieved 20 July 2020.
Donnachie, Ian, Adrian Graves, Alexia Howe and Eric Richards (eds). That Land of Exiles: Scots in Australia . Edinburgh: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1988.
Fitzpatrick, David. Politics and Irish Life 1913–21: Provincial Experiences of War and Revolution . Dublin: Gill & Macmillan, 1977.
———. ‘Marriage in Post-Famine Ireland’. In Marriage in Ireland , edited by A. Cosgrove, 170–71. Dublin: College Press, 1985.
———. ‘“A Share of the Honeycomb”: Education, Emigration and Irishwomen’. Continuity and Change 1, no 2 (1986): 217–34.
———. ‘Divorce and Separation in Modern Irish History’. Past & Present 114, no 1 (February 1987): 172–96.
———. ‘The Modernisation of the Irish Female’. In Rural Ireland, 1600−1900: Modernisation and Change , edited by Patrick O’Flanagan, Paul Ferguson and Kevin Whelan, 166–80. Cork: Cork University Press, 1987.
———. ‘Women, Gender and the Writing of Irish History’. Irish Historical Studies 27, no 107 (1991): 267–73.
———. Oceans of Consolation: Personal Accounts of Irish Migration to Australia . Cork: Cork University Press, 1994.
———. ‘Ethnic Cleansing, Ethical Smearing and Irish Historians’. History 98, no 329 (2013): 135–44.
———. ‘We Are All Transnationalists Now’. Irish Historical Studies 41, no 159 (2017): 123–27.
Hammerton, A. James. ‘“Without Natural Protectors”: Female Immigration to Australia, 1832–1836’. Historical Studies 16 (October 1975): 539–66.
———. ‘Feminism and Female Emigration, 1861–1886’. In A Widening Sphere, Changing Roles of Victorian Women , edited by Martha Vicinus, 52–71. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1977.
———. Emigrant Gentlewomen. Genteel Poverty and Female Emigration, 1830–1914 . London: Croom Helm, 1979.
———. ‘“Out of Their Natural Station”: Empire and Empowerment in the Emigration of Lower-Class Women’. In Imperial Objects: Victorian Women’s Emigration and the Unauthorised Imperial Experience , edited by Rita Kranidis, 143–70. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1998.
———. ‘Gender and Migration’. In Gender and Empire , edited by Philippa Levine, 156–81. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.
Harper, Marjory, Annie Tindley and James Hunter. ‘Eric Richards, 3 August 1940–21 September 2018: An Appreciation’. The Scottish Historical Review XCVIII, 1, no 246 (April 2019): 131–33.
McCarthy, Callum. ‘Eric Richards Obituary’. The Guardian , 26 October 2018. . Retrieved 10 November 2019.
MacKenzie, John. ‘Professor John M. Mackenzie Pays Tribute to the Late Professor Eric Richards, Who Passed Away on 21 September 2018’. History Scotland , 16 October 2018. . Retrieved 10 November 2019.
Moya, Paula. ‘Who We Are and From Where We Speak’. Transmodernity: Journal of Peripheral Cultural Production of the Luso-Hispanic World 1, no 2 (2011): 79–94.
Payton, Philip. Emigrants and Historians. Essays in Honour of Eric Richards. Mile End, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2016.
Richards, Eric. ‘The Prospect of Economic Growth in Sutherland at the Time of the Clearances’. Scottish Historical Review 99, no 148 (October 1970): 154–57.
———. ‘The Mind of Patrick Sellar 1780–1852’. Scottish Studies 15 (1971): 1–20.
———. The Leviathan of Wealth: The Sutherland Fortune in the Industrial Revolution . London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973.
———. ‘History from Below’. Journal of the Historical Society of South Australia 1 (1976): 1–17.
———. ‘Minorities and Migrants in Australian History’. History Forum 3 (1981): 23–32.
———. A History of the Highland Clearances: Vol. I. Agrarian Transformation and the Evictions, 1745–1886 . London: Croom Helm, 1982.
———. ‘The Last Scottish Food Riots’. Past & Present , Supplement no 6 (1982): 1–59.
———. ‘Women in the British Economy since about 1750: An Interpretation’. In The Woman Question: Readings on the Subordination of Women , edited by Mary Evans, 220–86. London: Fontana, 1982.
———. A History of the Highland Clearances: Vol. II. Emigration, Protest, Reasons . London: Croom Helm, 1985.
———. ‘Irish Life and Progress in Colonial South Australia’. Irish Historical Studies 27, no 107 (May 1991): 216–36.
———. Poor Australian Immigrants in the Nineteenth Century. Visible Immigrants 2. Canberra: Division of Historical Studies and Centre for Immigration and Multicultural Studies, Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1991.
———. ‘How Did Poor People Emigrate from the British Isles to Australia in the Nineteenth Century?’ Journal of British Studies 32, no 3 (July 1993): 250–79.
———. ‘The last of the clan and other Highland emigrants. In The Heather and the Fern: Scottish Migration and New Zealand Settlement , edited by Tom Brooking and Jennie Coleman, 33–47. Dunedin: University of Otago Press, 1993.
———. ‘An Australian Map of British and Irish Literacy in 1841’. Population Studies 53, no 3 (1999): 345–59.
——— . Patrick Sellar and the Highland Clearances: Eviction, Homicide and the Price of Progress . Edinburgh: Polygon at Edinburgh University Press, 1999.
——— . The Highland Clearances: People, Landlords and Rural Turmoil. Edinburgh: Birlinn, 2000.
———. ‘Withers’. Scottish Historical Review 79, no 2 (2000): 271–73.
——— . ‘The Australian Option’. In Living Economic and Social History , edited by Pat Hudson, 302–7. Glasgow: Economic History Society, 2001.
———. ‘Ironies of the Highland Exodus, 1740–1900’. Journal of Australian Studies 25, no 68 (2001): 74–85.
——— . Britannia’s Children: Emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland since 1600. London and New York: Hambledon & London, 2004.
——— . Debating the Highland Clearances . Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007.
——— . Destination Australia: Migration to Australia since 1901 . Sydney: University of New South Wales Press, 2008.
———. ‘Australia and Scotland: The Evolution of a Long-Distance Relationship 1’. Australian Journal of Politics & History 56, no 4 (2010): 485–502.
——— . From Hirta to Port Phillip: The St Kilda Emigration to Australia in 1852 . South Lochs, Isle of Lewis: The Islands Book Trust, 2010.
———. ‘Malthus and the Uses of British Emigration’. In Empire, Migration and Identity in the British World , edited by Kent Fedorowich and Andrew S. Thompson, 42–59. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013.
———. ‘Emigrants and Historians’. In Emigrants and Historians. Essays in Honour of Eric Richards , edited by Philip Payton, 132–56. Mile End, South Australia: Wakefield Press, 2016.
———. ‘Quantifying New Zealand’s Scots’. History Australia 13, no 3 (September 2016): 448–50. Review of Rebecca Lenihan (ed.), From Alba to Aotearoa: Profiling New Zealand’s Scots Migrants, 1840–1920 (Dunedin: Otago University Press, 2015).
———. ‘British Emigrants and the Making of the Anglosphere’. History 103, no 355 (2018): 286–306.
——— . The Genesis of International Mass Migration: The British Case, 1750–1900. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2018.
——— . ‘The Highland Diaspora and Its Antipodean Outliers’. In International Migration in the Victorian Era , edited by Marie Ruiz, 83–106. Leiden: Brill, 2018.
———. ‘British Emigrants and the Making of the Anglosphere: Some Observations and a Case Study’. In Australia, Migration and Empire: Immigrants in a Globalised World , edited by Philip Payton and Andrekos Varnava, 13–43. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019.
——— . ‘Migrants in Crisis in Nineteenth-Century Britain’. In The Oxford Handbook of Migration Crises , edited by Cecilia Menjívar, Marie Ruiz and Immanuel Ness, 37–56. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
———. ‘Migrants Spilling over Borders: The Long View’. Fudan Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences 12, no 1 (March 2019): 27–44.
Richards, Eric and Anne Harraman. ‘If She Was To Be Hard Up She Would Sooner Be Hard Up in a Strange Land Than Where She Would Be Known’. In Irish Women in Colonial Australia , edited by Trevor McClaughlin, 82–115. Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1998.
Richards, Eric and Annie Tindley. ‘After the Clearances: Evander McIver and the “Highland Question”, 1835–73’. Rural History 23, no 1 (2012): 41–57.
Richards, Eric, David Fitzpatrick and Richard Reid. Neglected Sources for the History of Australian Immigration . Visible Immigrants 1. Canberra: Research School of Social Sciences, Australian National University, 1989.
Richards, Eric and Deborah Oxley. ‘Convict Women and Female Immigrants Compared: 1841 – A Turning Point?’ In Visible Women: Female Immigrants in Colonial Australia , edited by Eric Richards, 1–59. Canberra: Australian National University, 1995.
Richards, Eric and Jacqueline Templeton (eds). The Australian Immigrant in the 20th Century . Visible Immigrants 5. Canberra: Australian National University, 1998.
Richards, Eric and A. James Hammerton (eds). Speaking to Immigrants: Oral Testimony and the History of Australia Immigration . Visible Immigrants 6. Canberra: Australian National University, 2002.
Richards, Eric and Margrette Kleinig (eds) . On the Wing: Mobility before and after Emigration to Australia. Visible Immigrants 7. Spit Junction, New South Wales: Anchor Books Australia, 2013.
Richards, Eric and Monica Clough . Cromartie: Highland Life 1650–1914 . Aberdeen: Aberdeen University Press, 1989.
Université de Picardie Jules Verne. ‘Colonial and Wartime Migration (1815–1914)’, 13–14 September 2018. D3XRM6O616XO . Retrieved 20 November 2019.
Varnava, Andrekos. ‘Vale, Eric Richards’. The Australian Historical Association , 4 October 2018. . Retrieved 10 November 2019.
Chapter 2
Eric Richards
I wanted to say how marvellous it is that Marie Ruiz and her colleagues and sponsors have assembled such a dazzling array of talents, and also to say how pleased and honoured I am to be part of this splendid occasion. Some of you I already know, and others I’m only now meeting – some of the distant inspirations whose work I have followed from afar for over four decades. Only recently have I been introduced to Marie’s own original research and the energetic stimulus she is giving to new migration research. So I extend my congratulations to our hosts and thank them for their generosity.
At the same time I wanted to say how sad and disappointed I am that David Fitzpatrick, who wanted so much to be here, is now stricken, literally by the throat, and in hospital in Belfast. I have worked with David and know him to be the sharpest mind and most elegant voice in our large coterie of emigration historians. Had he been here, it would have been a joy – and also an alarm system for any loose or conventional thinking! Let’s hope he recovers fast and gets back to work – and to tennis – as soon as possible.
I’m about to consider some very small and some very large questions which form the subject matter of our endeavours relating to migration in general: I’m trying to span my own interests for over five decades; I’m also echoing my own personal migrations; and then I am going to talk rather idiosyncratically about some large questions relating to the global dispersion of parts of the British population in the great Age of Migration, which coincided with the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I want to talk about the extreme ends of the great spectrum of emigration behaviour and analysis. This addresses the venerable question of how the British and the Irish were mobilized and eventually stretched across the globe, even to the furthest antipodes, and why they did so at a specific moment in time.
Most of all, I seek answers at the far ends of the scale of the story, the micro and the macro. So I start with some tiny populations in seriously remote locations of the British archipelago, and then later I will swing to the grand intercontinental manifestations located in our swollen literature of mass international migrations. There are elements here of what David Christian calls ‘Big History’, but I am starting with ‘Little History’. 1 Getting the ends together is a very advanced kind of historical rope-making. Ultimately this is about how a part of the world was mobilized unprecedentedly to stretch much further at a particular point in time, reaching even as far as Australia. They also ultimately link my extreme interests in the north of Scotland and faraway Australia.
I start with the experiences of two island communities in the mid-nineteenth century, located in the Outer Hebrides and the northwest coast of the Scottish Highlands, both on the outer peripheries of the main migration systems. They further highlight the perennial puzzles bedevilling the account of emigrant origins. These two islands were microscopic sites of ‘precipitate emigration’ in the mid-nineteenth century, when sudden ‘mass emigration’ affected the insular communities of St Kilda (to Port Phillip in 1852) and the island of Handa (to Canada in 1847/8). Each episode was small enough and sufficiently well documented to allow a detailed investigation of the propellants of these emigrations, and expose the pressure of local circumstances in each case.
The tiny islands of St Kilda are on the outer edge of the continental shelf, 30 miles out into the Atlantic; they were cut off from the mainland for many months in every year of the nineteenth century. On St Kilda there was a population of about 110: these were the MacQueens, MacDonalds, MacCrimmens, Fergusons and Gillies. They subsisted in an extraordinary bird-based economy, the community apparently held in demographic balance (mainly by appalling and mystifying infant death rates) with little change over many decades. In late 1852 a third of the population, 36 of them, decided to take advantage of an offer of free emigration to Port Phillip in Australia. 2 A third of their number died en route, mostly of measles. In this case there was no evidence of population pressure, famine, land scarcity, rent increase or inducement by the landowner – indeed quite the contrary. There may have been some obscure theological turmoil in their minds, but the emigrants seem to have freely decided to take a sudden opportunity, perhaps influenced by information of prospects beyond their hermetic world. Despite its appallingly high infant death rates in the island population, after 1852, St Kilda resumed its traditional stability and immobility for another 80 years. There was no further emigration despite urgent persuasion by some of the surviving migrants in Australia and despite remittances sent back to the island. The St Kildans clung on and resisted the temptation to leave the islands. There was virtually no further emigration from St Kilda until the more famous total and final evacuation of the island, 80 years later, in 1929. 3
Another tiny island along the Highland littoral had a similar experience of evacuation, though under quite different conditions. Handa was home to 12 families; located off the northwest of Sutherland, it was not so cut-off from the world as St Kilda.
Handa had experienced a series of strange transitions. It was one of the few inhabited islands off the northern mainland; and in 1726, it became home to a couple of families. It was later cleared for sheep, at the turn of the century, and then inhabited by a single shepherd. But in 1828 the island was re-populated at the behest of the landlord, now with about 12 tenants on small lots, growing potatoes, with a few cattle and sheep and the prospect of fishing. In 1839 the population was 75 and apparently in good heart and able to pay their rents regularly. But the potato famine of 1846/7 was severe and led to the removal of the entire population by the landlord in the following year. Some of the Handa people were certainly among the emigrants sailing from Loch Laxford to Montreal in 1847 and to Pictou in 1848. 4
On Handa, in contrast to St Kilda, there was clear evidence of pressures from the landowner and competition for their land. Here the landlord helped to persuade and assist most of the people to emigrate; those that demurred were resettled reluctantly on the rest of the mainland Sutherland estate. The exact degree of pressure exerted by the landlord was disputed – the Factor claimed that the people begged for assistance to emigrate; the folk memory was that they were forcibly removed to add the entire island to his mainland sheep farm. Some of the tenants had adamantly refused to go and were levered out and compulsorily relocated on the mainland estate.
By 1853 the entire island had been evacuated and turned over to a sheep farm, into the hands of the Factor (Evander McIver): the problem of destitution on the island was thus eliminated at one fell swoop, and the land was redeployed to a more remunerative use. This was a case of induced emigration, initiated by the landlord and facilitated by prevailing emigration schemes (in effect the new infrastructures of mid-century emigration systems), which connected migrant-seeking destinations with potential reservoirs of British migrants in the mid-century.
Eventually the fate of St Kilda and of Handa was much the same: they were both totally depopulated and their people scattered to the emigration world. But the timing, the mechanisms and the propellants of their respective migrations had differed markedly. Here was a classic case of reverse responses to the option of emigration, of the essential unpredictability of the emigration decisions. Even in these closely paralleled examples, the modes of emigration were at variance, set in opposition to grand overarching general propositions, the grail of some emigration historians, myself included.
Emigration was often unpredictable, sporadic, unplanned, temperamental and unstructured, frequently subject to whims and enthusiasms or crises in the lives of individuals or even communities. 5
But here were puzzles that bedevil the study of emigration behaviour – it is easy to list the conditions that precipitated the emigrations. At the same time we have the fact that most of the island people didn’t take up the opportunities. In ostensibly identical circumstances, some people departed for ever; some moved off to nearby asylums or refuges, and some dug in and stayed on, almost bloody-mindedly, generation after generation. We have, cheek by jowl, examples of extreme emigration and extreme inertia. And this is a story repeated endlessly across the country. Some cases seemed to exhibit reverse and polarized responses to the same stimuli.
The Handa and St Kilda cases seem to exemplify the unpredictability and subjectivity of the emigration decision, people individually and collectively responding in barely rational ways – often characterized as fevers, spasms, surges and so on. This is microscopic history and is entirely fascinating – how people in their different ways make the crucial decision to emigrate or not when opportunity arises or adversity falls upon them. It might look like ‘one damn migrant after another’, following lanes and pathways, eventually totting up to their millions, then transforming entire continents in the process.
The St Kilda and the Handa people of mid-century dispersed – to crofts a few miles away, or to America, to the Falklands, South Africa, to Australia and New Zealand – some of them eventually joining the millions and adding to the conundrum of how these specific movements were activated in the separate stories. Others of the same communities, of course, displayed infuriating inertia and resistance and stayed on – in the crofting system – which was one of the great peasant achievements of the post-clearance Highlands.
It is an extremely long way from the fretful, dramatic and life-changing negotiations and reversals among the dislocated peasantries of the northwest Highlands in 1848–52, a very long stretch from our understanding of the vast aggregated flows of people in the Age of Mass Migration from which poured out 53 million people from Europe in the long nineteenth century, about 19 million of them from the British Isles. The circumstances relating to these impossible numbers were fantastically varied, millions of different stories from wonderfully varied conditions, which were also changing over time – quite different, for instance, in 1880 from 1830. Thinking of these mass movements entails an analysis at the other end of the scale – the notion that there were herculean influences of a continental, even geological, scale which somehow shaped entire communities, societies, economies, oceans.
Many of the changes in the framework of international migration after 1820 were down to responses to specific factors facilitating and promoting emigration – and the list is well known. Thus, the sheer cost of oceanic and internal travel fell radically in the nineteenth century. On the Australia run, for instance, the cost fell from about £20 to £30 in the 1820s, down to about £12 in 1850; the Atlantic passage had fallen to ‘as low as’ £2 in the mid-1820s 6 ; the range of accessible destinations widened spectacularly; the demand for labour and the availability of land overseas and accommodation all increased dramatically and cumulatively; the costs, benefits and freedom of movement all favoured expatriation; communications improved; persuasive propaganda and finances were increasingly available throughout this time. The longer this list – which is extendable – the more obvious it is that this was an era significantly and unprecedentedly favourable for the transfer of unprecedentedly large numbers of people across the globe. The list, in its many combinations and permutations, meets most of the causal requirements of explanation and, in toto, is difficult to resist. For the most part, the list adds up to a perfectly adequate equation, a descriptive version of the story.
Yet the list is not satisfying as an explanation. It remains a list without any sense of priority or causal sequence or even connectedness. This approach can be contrasted with some of the grander, large-scale attempts at capturing the essence of international migration. Some of these are very informal and yet vivid in their wider conceptualization of international migration. But much of the discussion about emigration has commonly been couched in the language of metaphor. Even now we continue to be deluged with hydraulic images: thus, emigrants are frequently imagined in flows and streams, and rivers, or in torrents and deluges of humanity, in flood, and even in tsunamis, usually overflowing and gushing.
There is also a rash of quasi-medical language – of frenzies, hysterias of people suddenly deciding collectively to evacuate, so to speak, and other emotional conditions; the ‘Yellow Peril’ is another more extreme version of this kind of thought. ‘Territory’ has also been a crucial image of emigration – a Canadian historian spoke of ‘earth-hunger’ 7 as the strongest motive in the early days of mass emigration, and, of course, lebensraum has a rather specific and sinister connotation in this kind of language. I suspect that the recourse to metaphor is symptomatic (if I might mix in another medical metaphor) of the rather desperate quest for explanation in the absence of anything more systematic. And we are far from escaping or being liberated from the grip of metaphor in our explanations.
If we go back into the earlier literature of emigration, to the seedtime of international migration, I have been intrigued to find so many contemporaries referring to emigration in terms of bees and hives. Emigration was often compared to the swarming of bees, possibly with an inner logic of bee hives. In the early seventeenth century, there were frequent complaints about England being overpopulated by overgreat and superfluous multitudes, which were likened to ‘stalls that are overfull of bees […] no small number of them should be transplanted into some other soil and removed hence into new hives’. 8 In 1791, James Madison spoke of ‘swarms that may be spared without diminishing the stock in the hive’, and declared, ‘a country whose population is full, may annually spare a part of its crop of human life like a Hive of bees its swarm, without any diminution of its numbers’. 9 This seems to suggest a proto-Malthusian version of population dynamics.
The same metaphor was employed in a different mode by Robert Torrens in 1817 when he proclaimed the possibilities of the vast new regions of Canada, the Cape of Good Hope and New Holland as places of ‘almost unlimited vent for our redundant population’, ‘for every able-bodied pauper in the United Kingdom’. He went further and declared, ‘The hive contains more than it can support; and if it be not permitted to swarm, the excess must either perish of famine, or be destroyed by internal contests for food.’ 10 This also suggested a Malthusian dystopia even beyond Malthus’s own suggestion. Again in 1824, we find Thomas Wooler advocating emigration as an escape from an impending crisis of population: ‘When this point can be reached, then emigration and colonization become necessary; as the bees swarm when the hive is too full.’ 11
As I’ve already suggested, the seduction of metaphor continues to invade modern explication of the problem of mass migration. I can offer three current and very influential examples. These are historians and demographers searching for larger explanations to meet the scale of the question, seeking for some larger common determinants across a wildly varied set of circumstances. Though there is the perennial danger of seeking out large causes for large phenomena, there are at least three grander conceptions of the problem of international migration, and these take us directly to my polar extreme of the subject, to the most ambitious and all-encompassing versions of the story with which I began.
The first is the most widely accepted, almost the default explanation. I’m talking here about the basic economic model of the great age of international migration most recently presented by economists Hatton and Williamson. 12 Theirs is merely the latest and best documented version of economic migration, and they are reiterating the notion that most emigration is economic migration, and it is difficult to disagree with this proposition. 13 They say mass migration is not a puzzle and was not new: ‘Nor are the reasons people move a big mystery: they do it today to improve the quality of their lives, and they did it for the same reason two centuries ago.’ They are emphatically deterministic in direct economic causation: they declare that ‘the variety in European emigrant experience can be explained by a common economic framework, rather than by idiosyncratic non-economic factors embedded in country-specific history and culture’. 14 They concede the influence of ‘cultural affinities, location preferences, and the friends-and-relatives effect’, but these operated beneath the ‘strong economic forces [in] migrant selection’. 15 These are like Braudel’s great waves upon the great backs of which all else rests, or bubbles along.
Crucial in the Hatton and Williamson economic framework was the change in the basic facilities of emigration. Mostly the costs of emigration and low wages had impeded emigration, and the ‘poverty trap’ operated. The great change was the prospective emigrants’ ‘improved ability to take advantage of the rewards’ of their emigration: at the heart of their calculations was the power of the income differential between home and destination 16 – and then facilitated by the reduction in transport costs through the nineteenth century. It was a continuous process which eventually brought emigration within the reach of the very poor, and enabled the catchment of emigration to reach across Europe by the end of the century: to the Italians, Poles, Slavs, Russian Jews, Balkan people, Mexicans, poor Greeks and Turks. The lowering of these costs meant the ‘poverty trap’ of emigration had been broken – as transport costs fell, while income levels rose with industrialization, and then more could emigrate. 17 With industrialization, wages rose and simultaneously the constraints on emigration were released, and it was more easily financed. The poverty trap was also diminished by the widespread recourse to remittances, especially back to Ireland, Spain and Portugal. Later the very same process affected the rest of the world through to the present day.
Hatton and Williamson explicitly seek ‘the forces which served to shift labour demand and supply in the origin and destination countries’. 18 On one side of the explanation, they invoke demographic forces, that is, the demographic transition which affects all when modern development unfolds, ‘producing a swarm of young adults’ who are precisely those most responsive to emigration incentives. In Europe, most left to escape poverty, and ‘it was the underlying economic and demographic labour market fundamentals’ that induced each surge. Hatton and Williamson acknowledge a paradox in that emigration continued to rise even when living standards rose at home: ‘Rising real wages at home did not appear to diminish emigration in the late nineteenth century,’ they concede. 19 This was especially true of the British Isles and Denmark, and thus ‘real wage gaps [did] not suffice by themselves to explain emigration’. 20
The second side of the explanation relates to land abundance and labour scarcities in the destination countries, which determined most of the differentials which fuelled emigrations. Poorly paid labour in Europe inevitably gravitated to the high-wage opportunities in America and beyond. The demographic transition generated the human numbers, and three key changes drove the outflows: transport costs, which had been stable from 1688 to 1820, but then fell radically; government subsidies gave some help; and the great European famine of the 1840s was decisive, after which market forces were crucial, under the regime of Laissez-faire. In the early phases, British and German emigrants were driven by wage incentives, the rest of Europe held back by poverty constraints. The Irish were an exception to the general rule – negatively not ‘positively selected’ by the impact of Famine. 21 Chain migration, especially from Ireland, enabled the poorest to enter the story – and path dependency becomes vital (‘a powerful magnetic field’ was created by previous emigration). 22 Attitudes also changed decidedly – industrialization reduced the perennial attachment to the land and expanded the regime of wage labour.
At the centre of the process were ‘World Factor Migrations and Demographic Transitions’. 23 Migrants moved between low-income countries to higher-income destinations, drawn by the positive differential, most of all to diminish poverty in Europe – the consequence being to narrow the difference, to produce a convergence. Eventually the wage gap with many European countries was reduced. Indeed Hatton and Williamson see emigration as a global facilitator of the convergence of economic rewards and the general universal growth of living standards: ‘Mass migrations were doing most of the convergence work,’ 24 they declare, and similarly, the ‘labor market forces […] [were] doing most of the work’. 25 They mean the heavy lifting of international migration.
No doubt, in the broadest senses, emigration correlated with several variables – most notably with the quantum of information, with transport costs and with the gap between income at home and abroad. The availability of assistance, the prior emigration of kinsfolk and the widening availability of destinations and opportunities overseas were also connected. But none of these explains the different responses in different regions, nor the blunt fact that most people did not react. The correlations do not explain the failure of most people to respond to the variable; the emigrants operated on the edge of society at home, no more than 2 per cent of them per annum.
A key question is how emigration was roused: was it simply a matter of facilities being created in response to demand conditions? How were the basic underlying factors transmitted into the overseas flows? Or did the actual mechanisms themselves generate the movement?
Most fundamentally, none of the carefully plotted economic variables account for the original motivating force, the first determinant of the differential, the essential primum mobile . 26 If the differential between the home and destination places was the moving force, then we have to explain the origins of the differential. The Hatton and Williamson exposition helps to explain the movement of people from one side of the equation to the other, but it does not seem to supply the explanation of why the differential existed in the first place, the vital motor, or more especially why it widened critically in the 1820s/1830s, which almost certainly involved both sides of the equation.
Hatton and Williamson’s model is basically a machine for ironing out differentials across the trading world. Their model of international migration, to lapse into metaphor again, seems akin to a great Victorian steam mechanism with fine cogs, clattering along – always reducing differentials and capturing some of the energy of the age for the transmission of millions of migrants. This is not a common metaphor in the emigration literature; many are more incendiary.
Another grand all-encompassing explanation has been provided by James Belich: this is an idiosyncratic account which gives the central role to the proposition that there was a spectacular surge of British settlers reaching across the globe to create the Anglosphere from the 1820s – an energy activated by the propaganda industry and the new print industry and its associated ‘boosterism’. Emigration became a dynamic force driving British settlement across the New Worlds, which Belich frequently proclaims as ‘settlerism’ – a term to capture the sheer energy of the outflowing British emigrants from the 1820s onwards.
Belich searches for a vocabulary powerful enough to capture this protean energy, and invents terms which sometimes stretch to hyperbolic excess. His favourite adjective is ‘explosive’, to describe the great divergence by which the Anglo-World outpaced the rest of humanity after 1820. This was ‘the progress industry’, a culture of ‘boom mentalities’, of a collective hysteria of expansion, a ‘full frothing boom frenzy’. In justification, he supplies a massive compendium of examples of sudden growth (and sudden collapse) from across the nineteenth-century Anglo-World, from Kansas to Kanmantoo, from Alaska to Auckland. He plunders the literature to illustrate the careering progress of their expansion, their dynamic and their fluctuations and disasters. 27
This settlerism became ‘the most volcanic form of socio-economic reproduction in human history’ and was dominated by the Anglo-World after 1820; and in terms of emigration, it became ‘the human tsunami of explosive colonization’. And whereas ‘normal colonization took a couple of centuries, […] explosive colonization took a couple of decades’. As for the causes, Belich invokes new images: thus, the ‘Anglos had more in common with coral insects than rational actors’. 28
But what set it off? It arose, he says, out of ‘folk utopianism’, to form a new ‘settler ideology’. 29 The dynamism of nineteenth-century settlement was the product of ‘popular ideologies’, as new psychology. 30
The ‘silent majority’ of the British people were now subjected to ‘large-scale long-term campaigns of persuasion’. 31 Puffery and propaganda were notoriously exaggerated, often aided by migrant letters and a shift in conceptual language. There developed a new language of emigration which boosted the ‘broad upturn in mass transfer [which] dates from about 1815’. This was the ‘great shift in attitudes’ to emigration, helped by the explosion of print. It ‘unleashed a mighty force […] a collective fervour akin to the delusion of crowds’, impelled by a supposedly ‘manic boosterism’. 32 Here Belich is re-asserting the irrationality of the emigrant crowd – once more denying them intellect. Note also that Belich is re-asserting the idea that there was a great discontinuity in the wide emigration narrative. 33
At the bottom line, explosive colonization drew on a ‘boom mentality’ that was – as contemporaries readily recognized – ‘a kind of mania’. This was Belich’s notion of ‘collective mania’, which affected so many greatly differing people – ‘often subconscious and seemingly irrational’. Belich is describing the behaviour but provides no actual explanation. 34 There is indeed the basic problem that propaganda, the print revolution, was as much a consequence as a cause of the great surge in emigration, and untangling the two is the great problem.
The question in the background is whether emigration was simply a dependent variable of Imperialism and Empire – the emigrants as simply the foot soldiers of Empire, or alternatively as prime actors in that grand narrative. Emigration might be a force in its own right with its own propellants – the most developed version of this being Belich’s notion of the explosive forces of ‘Settlerism’ as a great power engine of the nineteenth century.
With Belich, the metaphorical language is devoted to explosions and volcanoes and irrationality, somehow geared to the new print propaganda industry. 35 And there is evidently an extreme contrast with the rationality of Hatton and Williamson’s calculating emigrants. Amid the enthusiasm for excitation, I find it difficult to locate the line of causation, the mechanisms at work, and I seem to be left with people who are propelled forth by Keynesian ‘animal spirits’. Belich is a long distance from the Victorian steam engine of Hatton and Williamson.
The third of my grand organizing visions of the extreme emigration scenarios is derived from American historian Bernard Bailyn. He imagined the Atlantic world of the late eighteenth century as a galvanized oceanic world system which somehow was quite swiftly connected by massive new flows of humanity, flowing westwards from Europe and Africa to the Americas.
Bailyn also resorts to powerful metaphorical language to conjure up the scale and character of American immigration. America, of course, took the lion’s share of emigrants at all times, and the history of American immigration was vast and erratic: for this very reason, it requires special consideration.
Thus, Bailyn sought an elevated platform. He called for a perch high enough, and sometimes he invokes the image of a satellite – to ‘see the whole of the entire set of interrelated systems that impinged on preindustrial America one would have to circle the globe like a satellite’. Bailyn projects ‘patterns of population migration or the workings of labour markets in which nameless aggregates of people were moved by forces not one of them understood’. But Bailyn wants to ‘relate and combine these large-scale latent events’, with what he termed manifest events. 36 In particular, he seeks to connect the large-scale changes occurring across the Atlantic Basin with certain dynamic forces emanating from Europe.
Bailyn employs much figurative and rhetorical language: here we have tectonic plates shifting human populations over oceanic distances; geological images of semi-mystical processes and forces at work; subterranean transformations unseen by contemporaries but, nevertheless, shaping all their lives. Bailyn locates the 1770s as the hinge, but it is likely that the process was delayed by intervening matters, not least by the great wars in the Atlantic – and the 1770s thus probably served as a prelude or rehearsal of the true release in the 1820s, the true start of modern international mass migration.
Bailyn speculated about these grand, indeed tectonic, forces that impelled vast movements of people within the three connecting continents and across the ocean itself – the Atlantic world at the end of the eighteenth century. 37 In a series of scintillating metaphors, Bailyn imagined the Atlantic Basin as being convulsed into intercontinental flows of human beings over a territory that stretched from Luanda to the Outer Hebrides, and from the Elbe to the Mississippi. 38 These dynamic mechanisms are still obscure and have not yet been absorbed into our general understanding of the making of the modern world.

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