Tag: England

Palatine Migration into England

Within a few short months in 1709, 13,000 “Poor Palatines” landed on English soil. They had arrived from the Electoral Palatinate in Southwest Germany, with the intention of eventually settling in the New World. Little did they know, their arrival in England would cause an unprecedented political debate over the merits and drawbacks of immigration.

Illustration of the four lay electors of the H...
Illustration of the four lay electors of the Holy Roman Empire (from left: King of Bohemia, Count Palatine of the Rhine [or Elector Palatine], Duke of Saxony [or Elector of Saxony], Margrave of Brandenburg [or Elector of Brandenburg]) with their insignia (Photo credit: Penn Provenance Project)
Many reasons were to blame for the mass emigration. The most prominent, however, was the devastation left by years of war. The Thirty Years’ War had decimated the Palatinate; however, due to hard work and fertile land, the region was making a remarkable recovery. Unfortunately, the time of prosperity was cut short by the armies of Louis XIV.

The province was devastated in 1674, as Marshal Turenne and his troops laid the country to waste. Conditions were worsened by ongoing spats and struggles between neighboring princes in the region. From 1688 to 1689, the Grand Monarch vented his wrath on Protestants by ordering the Palatinate laid waste yet again.

The Nine Years’ War and the War of Spanish Succession brought years of terror for Southwest Germany. French troops thundered and plundered across the region, requisitioning freely and bringing widespread devastation and famine to the people of the Palatinate.

To the man-made devastation, nature brought a final blow. The winter of 1708 was the worst of the century, bringing intense cold as early as October, with temperatures reaching bone-chilling depths by early November. Of that winter it is said that firewood would not burn in the open air and birds fell dead in flight. Orchards and vineyards were destroyed, and men froze to death before the snow stopped falling on February 6th in 1709.

A final burden on the Palatines came from their own petty rulers. These princes lusted after the extravagant lifestyle of Louis XIV, and turned to heavy taxation in order to finance their lavish living. So heavy were the taxes that peasants were often left without sustenance.

To this impoverished crowd came a number of English agents with the enticing offer of free land in the American Colonies. Pamphlets were distributed, advertising the wonderful life that could be had in the New World and offering free passage through England to the plantations of Carolina and Pennsylvania. The books and papers distributed often bore the Queen’s picture and bore gold lettering on the title page.

The prospects offered in the pamphlets must have seemed a dream come true to the suffering Palatines. These “golden promises” led many of the poor people to believe that they would receive assistance after their arrival in England. Encouraged by the success of families who had gone before them, many thousands of Germans set off for England and the New World.

In May 1709, the first boatloads of “Poor Palatines” began arriving in England. Throughout the summer, thousands more arrived. While the first 900 immigrants were provided for by a group of benevolent wealthy Englishmen, the thousands of refugees that followed quickly overwhelmed the capacity to provide for them.

Army tents were set up in Blackheath and Camberwell fields as a temporary solution while a committee was frantically seeking ideas for employment and settlement of the thousands of refugees. Unfortunately, the Palatines were largely unskilled and poorly educated, greatly narrowing the opportunities for employment.

Of course, the situation provided excellent fodder for political debate – particularly because immigration had been a hot-button topic for some time. The Whigs felt that immigrants would prove to be a benefit to England’s workforce, and made great effort to raise sympathy and support for the Palatines. The Tories, on the other hand, felt that the Palatines were already placing an unbearable financial burden on the country and strongly opposed naturalization of the immigrants.

The Board of Trade was commissioned with finding a solution to the problem, and unfortunately for the Palatines (who still had dreams of reaching America), many were initially dispersed to neighboring towns and cities. Eventually, however, the Board gave in and began sending many families on to New York.

Over the summer of 1710, ten ships carried around 2800 Germans to New York. While not all the Palatines made it to America, groups of Germans did eventually succeed in establishing successful communities and making significant contributions in the New World.

Massachusetts Bound: The Winthrop Fleet

The English Puritan population grew steadily throughout the early 1600s. They disagreed strongly with the Church of England, and struggled for many years to bring reform in the practices of the state church. They were strongly opposed to the Roman Catholic Church and felt that many of the religious rituals practiced by the Church of England too closely mirrored those of the Catholics.

Depiction of John Winthrop landing at Salem in...
Depiction of John Winthrop landing at Salem in 1630. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

King James I struggled furiously to suppress the growing movement among the Puritans and to quell the ongoing rebellion against the established Church. Despite his best attempts, the Puritans soon were in the majority among the Members of Parliament.

The situation became even more volatile in 1624, when King Charles I ascended the throne and married a Roman Catholic. Charles viewed the Puritans as a direct threat to his rule and was determined to suppress them once and for all. After temporarily dissolving Parliament in 1626, and again in 1627, he finally abolished Parliament once and for all in March of 1629.

Charles declared Personal Rule, naming himself the sole authority over England, Scotland and Ireland. This period between 1629 and 1640 soon became known as the Eleven Years’ Tyrrany, as Charles ran roughshod over the population, exacting exorbitant fines and taxes to fund his government.

Knowing full-well Charles’s sentiment toward their beliefs, the Puritans began to view their future in England with a growing sense of dread. Many turned their eyes to New England as a potential haven.

A wealthy group of Puritan leaders began discussing plans for a settlement in the New World. This group of Puritans became major shareholders in a commercial company, first called the New England Company, and later the Massachusetts Bay Company.  Through this venture the investors were able to acquire a land grant for the territory between the Merrimack and Charles Rivers.

Almost immediately a small fleet of ships set off for New England under the direction of John Endecott. The ships carried 300 colonists who were charged with preparing the way for a larger Puritan migration.

The remaining Puritan leaders began planning and preparing for the successful colonization of New England. The leaders plotted out a careful course of action, and throughout the following winter, they began selecting a large group of Puritan families who would make the voyage to the New World. They hand-picked all manner of skilled laborers from a wide variety of trades to ensure a successful and self-sustaining colony.

John Winthrop, a wealthy Puritan lawyer, was elected to be the Governor of the fleet and eventually of the new colony. Winthrop was seen as the best candidate because of his extreme dedication to the cause of a safe haven for the Puritan faith. He worked tirelessly with other company officials to procure a transport fleet and the multitude of supplies needed for a successful migration. He was also a key recruiter for the skilled tradesmen and pastors that the colony would require.

Finally, the ships were procured and all was ready for the Great Migration. On April 8th, 1630, the first four ships of the Winthrop Fleet set sail from Yarmouth, on the Isle of Wight. John Winthrop sailed aboard the Arabella, the flagship (or “Admiral”) of the fleet. He was accompanied by his two young sons, Samuel and Stephen.

In all, seven hundred men, women, and children made the voyage on the eleven ships of the Winthrop Fleet. Winthrop made note in his journal of the ships that were under his command:

–          The Arabella, as we mentioned, was the “Admiral” of the fleet.

–          The Talbot was named “Vice Admiral” and carried John Winthrop’s son Henry.

–          The Ambrose, the “Rear Admiral” of the fleet.

–          The Jewel, designated “Captain”

–          The Mayflower (not to be confused with the Pilgrims’ ship)

–          The Whale

–          The Success

–          The Charles

–          The William and Francis

–          The Hopewell

–          The Trial

The voyage was a success, and was fairly uneventful aside from occasional adverse weather or wind delays. Many were sea sick, and the children were often cold and bored; however, due to the careful planning and preparation of the fleet, all arrived safely in Salem, Massachusetts that June.

The new colonists were warmly welcomed to Salem by John Endecott; however, John Winthrop and his deputy Thomas Dudley quickly discovered that Salem was inadequate for the needs of the new arrivals. They set off immediately to survey the area, first settling at Charlestown, but quickly moving the group of colonists to the Shawmut Peninsula. There they founded what has become the modern city of Boston.

The early months were a dire struggle for the colonists. As many as 200 settlers – including young Henry Winthrop – succumbed to disease and other factors.

The colonists refused to sit idle, however. According to one account of the day, “there was not an idle person to be found in the whole plantation.” Houses were built and businesses were opened. Winthrop himself built his house in Boston where he worked a fairly large plot of land.

Owing to the great success of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, many more flocked to New England. Throughout the 1630s, approximately 20,000 people had migrated to New England. This “Great Migration” carried on until the advent of the English Civil War in the early 1640s.

The Silk Weavers of Spitalfields

London played host to a substantial number of French Protestants throughout the sixteenth century. France – a staunchly Catholic country – heavily stigmatized Protestantism, making the country somewhat uncomfortable for deviants from the Catholic Church. It wasn’t until the 1680’s however, that the Huguenot migration began en masse.

Christ Church Spitalfields. Photograph taken b...
Christ Church Spitalfields. Category:Images of London (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For many years, the Edict of Nantes had granted the Protestants the freedom to worship as they chose in designated areas, providing a measure of safety. This marginal security came to an end with the Dragonnades, a policy introduced in 1681 by Louis XIV. Dragonnades were coercive tactics intended to make France increasingly uncomfortable for the Huguenots by forcing them to re-convert to Catholicism. Finally, in 1685, King Louis overturned the Edict of Nantes, resulting in heavy-handed laws and severe persecution of the Protestants.

Hundreds of thousands of Protestants were forced to flee the oppressive rule in France. Many found new homes in the Netherlands, others in America, and others still finding refuge near the Cape of Good Hope.

In keeping with the strong British anti-Catholic sentiment of the day, King Charles II flung open the doors of England, offering a place of refuge to the fleeing Huguenots. Thanks to widespread propaganda depicting the persecution inflicted on French Protestants, the refugees arrived to a warm welcome by the English people. In fact, they were the recipients of generous charitable support from the British monarchy throughout the end of the seventeenth century.

By 1710, between 40,000 and 50,000 refugees had made their way to the safety of England. Historians estimate that around half of that number settled in Spitalfields where housing was cheap and the London trade guilds held less economic power.

The Huguenots came from all walks of life, though many were intellectuals and highly skilled tradesmen with backgrounds in weaving, clock making, and financial services. Textile manufacturing, in fact, was the prevalent occupation amongst the refugees, and they found their services in high demand among the British upper class.

Thanks to the hard work and skill of the Huguenot weavers, the textile trade thrived, and Spitalfields soon became known as “Weaver Town.” The influx of silk and French styles had quite an impact on the fashions of the British upper class. Many workshops were opened, and their owners soon became extremely wealthy with many hundreds of employees. The wealthy Huguenots built large, distinctive houses in Spitalfields – many of which still remain today.

The Huguenot Churches were a binding quality in the community, providing both a connecting point for the immigrants, as well as a support system for the poor and new arrivals. Two churches in particular became very well-established. A very strict, Calvinist church thrived on Threadneedle Street in the City, while a more Anglicized worship took place at the Savoy in the West End. These two churches became focal points for the many refugees, and led to the development of two distinct communities.

Due to the high concentration of French immigrants, they managed to retain much of their distinct culture and language for several generations. Their high fashion and language set them apart somewhat from the general population, and over time they achieved a level of respectability – particularly in contrast to the squalor and immorality of many Londoners.

In time, however, the Huguenots gradually assimilated into British culture and society. The strict Calvinist Protestantism drifted gradually toward a more Anglicized form of worship, and the Huguenots eventually took on Anglicized surnames (though this was often due to English clerical error in record-keeping).

As Indian and Chinese silks became more readily available, the Spitalfields silk weaving went into decline. This seriously affected the community in Spitalfields, and though the industry struggled on, the 30,000 workers were reduced to starvation wages. The ebbing prosperity, along with the introduction of new machinery, led to violent clashes between factory owners and their workers.

By 1801, the “Spitalfields Acts” were passed in an attempt to improve wages and working conditions, and to protect the domestic market. Eventually, however, many Huguenots moved away from Spitalfields, settling in the suburbs.

The Huguenot impact on Spitalfields remains today though, with many French-sounding street names, and many well-preserved Huguenot houses. In fact, it is estimated that Huguenot blood still runs through a quarter of London’s population.

The Great Migration

In the 17th century, the religious climate in England was in serious decline. Puritan clergy had adopted strict Calvinism, and were severely opposed to any rituals or religious practices that in any way mirrored the Roman Catholic Church. The growing reforms in the Church of England resulted in alienation of the Puritans.

The political climate was in an extremely volatile state as well, with constant, vicious struggles between Parliament and King Charles I. Parliament – which was predominantly Puritan – consistently opposed the King, challenging his decisions and his authority.

Because the religious and political climate in England was so volatile, a huge number of Puritans migrated to the New World in search of political and religious freedom. To fully understand their reasoning, however, we must look back at the root of the struggle between Charles and the Puritans.

Deutsch: John Winthrop (*12. Januar 1588; † 26...
John Winthrop (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1603, King James I ascended the throne of England. As Queen Elizabeth had died leaving no heir, her throne fell to the son of Mary Stuart, the Catholic Queen of Scotland. had been executed some years previous at Elizabeth’s command; however her son remained, and was the only viable successor to the throne.

When James I was crowned as king of England and Scotland, he came to believe that he was appointed to the throne by God, and as such, was above the laws of man and answerable only to God. He stood staunchly behind the Church of England, and passed laws requiring all English subjects to attend services, pay taxes, and unquestioningly accept the beliefs put forth by the Church of England. Those who deviated risked harsh punishment.

The Calvinists, however, were a strong force in England as well, and preached purification of anything that mirrored the beliefs or practices of the Catholic Church. They shunned the Church of England as they felt that it was too similar to the Roman Catholic Church. Their doctrine of “purification” led to the adoption of the name “Puritans”.

The Puritans endlessly petitioned King James, pressing him to change his laws pertaining to the church. King James refused, leading to an intense strain between the two factions. As the situation grew ever more precarious, some Puritans took refuge in Holland, while others went further still, founding the Plymouth Colony in the New World.

While King James I did eventually make attempts to reconcile with the Puritan clergy, the situation took a drastic downturn when Charles I ascended the throne in 1625. Charles also believed that he possessed the Divine Right of Kings, and used it to his own gains and to pardon his own corruption. The predominantly Puritan Parliament consistently opposed Charles, creating an intense struggle between the two.

Finally, King Charles got rid of Parliament altogether in a quick power grab, and for the next eleven years, he ruled as an Authoritarian. During this time, he viciously persecuted the Puritans, who he saw as a direct threat to his authority.

Soon the situation was so precarious that the Puritans had no choice but to look for freedom elsewhere. John Winthrop, a Puritan lawyer, began to discuss the idea of a Puritan colony in New England, following the example of the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony. For two years, Winthrop discussed his ideas and plans within his social circle.

In March, 1629, King Charles granted the land for the Massachusetts Bay Colony to the “Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England” – a company that was owned almost entirely by Puritan stockholders. It’s highly possible that Charles was unaware that the group was formed of Puritans, and he likely assumed that the venture was purely commercial. Whatever the case, the land was granted.

Winthrop set sail for New England in 1630. Eleven ships, known collectively as the Winthrop Fleet, carried 700 colonists toward the New World. Their goal: to become a “City upon a Hill” – an example to the countries of Europe as a fully reformed Christian commonwealth.

Thus, the Great Migration began, as over the next 13 years, approximately 21,000 Puritans fled England in search of religious freedom. Some struck out toward colonies in the West Indies; however most headed for New England in America.

The Petworth Project: Emigration to Upper Canada in the1830s

As the Napoleonic Wars drew to a close in 1815, British soldiers began returning home. The male population was severely reduced, and those who returned assumed that life would be better. They expected better living conditions and higher wages due to the sacrifices they had made; however, they quickly became disillusioned by conditions at home.

English: Major-General Sir John Colborne, GCB,...
English: Major-General Sir John Colborne, GCB, GCMG (Baron Seaton) – British field marshal, Lieutenant Governor of Guernsey, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, founder of Upper Canada College, Commander-in-Chief of the British armed forces during the Rebellions of 1837 in the Canadas, Acting Governor of British North America, Commander-in-Chief of Ireland (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Farmers who had been raking in tremendous profits on corn throughout the war saw an immediate and steady decline. To add insult to injury, the farmers were then forced to contribute an ever increasing amount of corn to the poor via the “Poor Laws.” This not only hurt the farmers, but it trickled down to the farm workers as well, who saw their wages reduced dramatically.

Conditions deteriorated over the next 15 years. Farm workers were laid off as farmers introduced heavy machinery. Poverty was widespread and workers were angry. It wasn’t long before the “Swing Riots” began.

Throughout 1830-31, landowners began receiving threatening letters from the mythical “Captain Swing”. The name was meant to conjure the image of swinging from the gallows, and the intent was to pressure the wealthy land barons into complying with the demands of the laborers. Protests soon followed as workers turned to strikes, arson, mass demonstrations and machine breaking.

Anxious to alleviate the suffering of the angry masses, a few people in power conceived the idea of shipping the poor off to Canada. George Wyndham, Earl of Egremont, Reverend Thomas Sockett, and Sir John Colborne believed that the social unrest could be diminished by providing the unemployed with a fresh start in Canada. Thus, the Petworth Project was born.

George Wyndham owned much of the land around Petworth (where there was much civil unrest) and provided the financial backing for the project. Thomas Sockett was the principal organizer and founder of the Petworth Emigration Committee. Sockett truly deserves the lion’s share of the credit for the success of the project as he not only chartered the ships, recruited emigrants and oversaw the process, but he carefully monitored the adjustment of the emigrants as they settled into their new life in Canada.

From 1832 to 1837, the Petworth Project provided for 1,800 men, women and children to undertake the voyage from Portsmouth, England to Upper Canada. The Emigration Committee instructed the emigrants regarding what they could expect upon reaching Canada, as well as what provisions they would need to bring with them. The Committee provided a list of tools and supplies needed, as well as recommendations for clothing, including warm coats and multiple pairs of stockings in preparation for the biting Canadian winters.

Though the intentions of the Emigration Committee weren’t entirely humanitarian, they did, nonetheless provide amply for those making the trek. Conditions on the ships were significantly better than those on other emigrant ships of the day. Upon arriving in Canada, Sir John Colborne ensured the safety of the emigrants as they travelled across the country to their final destinations. Though the trip was by no means easy, it was free and well-paid work was guaranteed at the end of the journey.

Very soon, the idea caught on in other regions as well. In fact, in 1834, 31,000 emigrants had made their way to Canada. They came not only from Petworth, but they flooded in from Hampshire and Norfolk, as well as from Munster and Leinster in Ireland.

The emigration continued until 1837, when Sir John Colbourne was replaced by Sir Francis Bond Head, who was instead interested in supporting the questionable principles of the “Poor Law” in England.

On the Buses: West Indian Migration after WWII

The years directly following the Second World War saw a huge transfer of the Caribbean Islands population. It was, in fact, the largest outward movement of people from the British Caribbean Islands, with many thousands ultimately moving to Britain in search of a better life.

The war was a major factor that stimulated migration to England after 1945. Because the British armed forces and the merchant navy were forced to expand considerably, labour shortages became a very real problem on the home front. Women and Irish workers stepped up to fill the gaps, but this was only a partial remedy. Thus, the Empire reached out to its colonies, recruiting thousands of Hondurans and West Indians, among others. Not only were workers recruited for labour on the home front, but 10,000 West Indians were recruited by the Royal Air Force, and thousands more joined the Merchant Navy as well as becoming the workforce keeping the London buses moving.

At the same time, the West Indies had been much neglected and had become the “slum of the Empire” with high levels

Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands.
Map of the Caribbean Sea and its islands. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of poverty and unemployment. As the war ended and West Indians returned, the men who had fought hard for the Empire knew that there was little opportunity for employment at home.

The men who had been recruited during the war were eligible for repatriation and gratuities. The government made a valiant effort to send many of them home, and about a fifth of the West Indians were repatriated to Jamaica; however, most quickly returned to Britain. Others simply refused to leave Great Britain at all, instead settling in various parts of England and Scotland.

Following the war, Britain was busy rebuilding and was in dire need of labourers. Initially, however, the British government was reluctant to allow migration from the West Indies, preferring instead to invite workers from the European continent. Many, in fact, felt that West Indians would be lazy or would turn to an easy life on the welfare system. Despite a huge influx of Poles and Italians, the need was simply too great and the UK turned to its colonies.

Finally, the decision was made to allow all British subjects entry. It was widely felt that since all subjects of the Empire had contributed equally to the war effort, there shouldn’t be restrictions on certain groups or nationalities.

In 1948, a Jamaican newspaper featured an advertisement stating that 300 places were available on board the ship Windrush, headed for England. Anyone hoping for better career or education prospects was welcome to travel aboard the ship. This voyage, which landed at Tilbury docks on June 21st, 1948, was the beginning of a major migration from the West Indian Islands to Britain. From 1948 to 1955, over 18,000 immigrants had moved from the Caribbean to Britain. The migration did not slow until 1962, by which time over 98,000 West Indians had made Great Britain their new home.

While many of the migrants were simply grateful for the opportunities available to them, most did face substantial challenges. Many were severely limited in their skills, and thus were forced to take low-paying jobs. The housing many migrants inhabited was of the poorest quality, yet they remained and formed a tightly-knit ethnic group with shared cultural, linguistic, and religious traditions. Social prejudice and discrimination was a challenge as well, as many British workers felt that migrants were taking over the job market and causing unemployment.

Fortunately, however, the West Indian migrants soon settled and became valued contributors to the rebuilding efforts. In many ways, they became a replacement population, inhabiting areas that were previously sparsely populated. Ultimately, the huge influx breathed new life and diversity into the British culture – ethnic diversity that is now widely celebrated. It marked a massive change in British society, and was the start of more wide-spread immigration to the UK.


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