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british, emigration, britain, dominions, migration and emigrants

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EMPIRE For nearly two centuries emigration has been a habit with the British people. Beginning in the 16th century there has been a continuous flow of population from the British Isles to all parts of the world. The stream has fluctuated with changing conditions in Great Britain and in the countries overseas, but since it began, al though it has sometimes slackened, it has never ceased.

The first British settlements overseas date from the 17th cen tury, when colonies were established in Virginia, Massachusetts, Bermuda and Barbados. Emigration did not attain large propor tions in the 18th century, but between 1820 and 1914 over 16,000,000 people left the United Kingdom to settle overseas. From this total must be deducted the number of foreigners who emigrated by way of Great Britain, of whom no separate record was kept before 1852, and also the number of emigrants who returned. On a rough estimate, however, it is probable that the net emigration from Great Britain amounted to i0,000,000 during the hundred years from 1820. The figures reflect the in fluence upon emigration of conditions in Great Britain and over seas; for instance, the Irish potato famine of 1846 and gold dis coveries in California and Australia resulted in an average outflow of 286,000 a year in the nine years 1846-54. Later, the agricul tural crisis of 188o-90 was responsible for a large increase in emigration.


The above table shows the British migration movement to and from countries outside Europe for the years 1913 and 1920-27.

The United States was for a long time the chief destination of British emigrants. Between 1815 and 1906 out of every ioo Brit ish emigrants 65 went to the United States, 15 to Canada, II to Australia and 7 to other parts of the empire. But these propor tions changed in later years. The United States still headed the list up to 1904, but after that the dominions absorbed the larger portion, viz., 62% in 1910, 70% in 1912, 75% in 1919, 71% in 1920 and 79% in the years 1920-7.

In 1914 and previous years the flow of population from Great Britain averaged 350,000 per annum, of which 200,000 went to the dominions. During the years 1920-27 the total migration

averaged 206,000 per annum, of which 163,00o went to the dominions.

Assisted British Migration.

At the close of the Napoleonic Wars the rapid growth of population and the prevalence of dis tress led to the adoption of a measure of State-aided migration and to the formation of colonization societies. The first settlements in the Cape of Good Hope and New Zealand were the outcome of this movement. Changes in conditions in Great Britain and the acquisition of responsible Government by the 'colonies,' who took over their own Crown Lands (by the sale of which assisted emi gration had been financed), resulted in the gradual abandonment of the policy and the grant of State-aid ceased in 1878. Numer ically it had little effect on British emigration during the 19th cen tury, for of the 81 million emigrants during the period 1815-75 only 350,000 were assisted. It had a very considerable effect, however, in stimulating settlement in the dominions. Between 1878 and 1919 no encouragement was afforded by the British Gov ernment towards emigration although the question of State-aid was again raised during the period of distress in 1884-5. Nor was anything done (apart from the establishment in 1886 of an office —the Emigrants' Information Office—to collect and publish ac curate information with regard to the British colonies) to direct migration to the British dominions rather than to foreign countries.

Since 1919, however, the British Government has again been endeavouring to encourage and direct migration from Great Britain. The importance of oversea settlement (as the movement of population within the empire is officially designated to dis tinguish it from emigration to foreign countries) was strongly emphasized by the Dominions Royal Commission (1917), which urged the need for a more effective supervision and direction of migration by co-operation between the Home Government and the Governments of the dominions.

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