University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term > Across the Oceans: Emigration from Cumberland and Westmorland Before 1914

Across the Oceans: Emigration from Cumberland and Westmorland Before 1914

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Thousands of people emigrated from the UK from the 17th century onwards but the exodus developed into a flood in the nineteenth century. Many people have studied emigration at a national scale but there are few examples of work on particular regions as Dudley Baines and Charlotte Erickson, both acknowledged experts in the field, highlighted in their comments on the need for such work. The people of Cumberland and Westmorland, in the far northwest of England, (the county of Cumbria since 1974) were part of this exodus and this book is a rare example of a regional study of emigration.

The work developed out of the research for my book on north Westmorland – From Hellgill to Bridge End (Hatfield 2003) in which I had used the census enumerations from 1841-1891 inclusive. I was struck by the number of families in which at least one child had been born overseas. Consequently the question arose that if these families had been overseas and returned home, how many remained abroad, where had they come from, why did they leave and where did they go?

The aim was to write an academically acceptable book but one in which the people themselves, not simply themes and numerical results would form the basis for the work. I collected the names and at least some details of more than 4,000 emigrants together with many more simply as numbers who added to the possibilities for numerical analysis. The project covered the regional economy, the origins and destinations of the emigrants, the journey, life overseas, returned emigrants together with a section on sojourners – the many hundreds who went as missionaries, those in administration or on military service, businessmen or other temporary (though often long lasting) time overseas not forgetting those who were transported.

Although the method of selection and collection of details means that the 4,000+ do not form a scientific and therefore only a partial and probably biased sample, the origins, destinations and occupations are sufficiently varied and widespread to make for a reasonable basis on which to investigate emigration from the two counties.

The evidence suggests that although some emigrated to escape from difficulties – or fear of difficulties in the future, the vast majority chose to seek a new life because of what they perceived as opportunities for a better life overseas.

This talk is part of the Wolfson College Lunchtime Seminar Series - Wednesdays of Full Term series.

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