British emigration during the early 1850s with special reference to emigration to the U.S.A.
This dissertation utilizes recently developed techniques to explore
with precision some basic questions that have long puzzled historians:
who were the 19th-century European emigrants, and why did they emigrate?
In the case of the extensive British emigration to the U.S.A. during the
early 1850s, there is special interest in the possible influence of the
repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846. Also of interest is whether industrial
change in Britain influenced the emigration.
Contrary to the current opinion that the repeal of the Corn Laws
did not result in the catastrophe predicted by many contemporaries, the
fall in grain prices that resulted from repeal was the main cause for
agriculturalists dominating the emigration of the early 1850s. Grain
farmers on poor soils without the capital necessary for improvement
comprised the bulk of the agricultural movement because they were losing
their limited capital and saw no future in a free-trade Britain. Those
farmers not experiencing such distress in Britain did not emigrate.
Emigration seems to have been an option taken reluctantly by farmers.
Surprisingly few persons experiencing industrial change in Britain
at this time emigrated to the United States. The growth of Britain's
textile and iron industries created openings that were filled by potential
emigrants. More numerous aboard the emigrant ships were unskilled
labourers and "pre-industrial" craftsmen, especially building trades
workers and miners. The Welsh miners showed a particular interest in
emigration because of a short depression and sour industrial relations
that resulted from a fall in the demand and price for coal. Altogether,
negative influences, or "distress", played the key role in the extensive
emigration from Britain to the U.S.A. during the early 1850s.