Perceptions of emigration in southern Scotland, c1770 - c1830

Beals, Melodee Helene (2009) Perceptions of emigration in southern Scotland, c1770 - c1830. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The dissertation examines the personal and public reactions to the emigration taking place in the Border region of Scotland at the turn of the nineteenth century. Separated into four parts—the landed, the church, the press and the families left behind—it explores the perceptions of each group and the motives and rationales behind this varied response.

The assessment of landholder policies and rural population management indicates that a long-held interest in maintaining and expanding the population did not wane among the greater landholders until around 1830 when estate improvements were completed and rural manufacturing declined. Rather, those most likely to advocate population management were the lesser lairds and rate payers. These men and women had less of an attachment to the eighteenth-century paternal relationship and were likely to view population as an economic resource or burden rather than a social asset. Therefore, the importance of landowners as agents of emigration in these counties is likely less than previously believed.

The examination of the Kirk found that its ministers’ oft-quoted emotive language against emigration was in fact derived from a long-held belief that numerical depopulation was a sign of economic and moral decay. They felt that the reorganisation of the rural population was detrimental to religious education and social deference. When agricultural rationalisation and urbanisation brought a rise in material wealth and a stricter, rather than more lenient, eye upon working-class behaviour, the objection was to some extent recanted. Their concern was less for the immediate welfare of the emigrants than for the survival of the rural community.

Concerning the provincial press, the extent to which these papers relied on pandering to public opinion in order to survive offers rare insight into demand-side economics in this period. Though all of the editors spoke against emigration, the papers were heavily supported by advertising for emigrant passage and devoted a sizable proportion of their local news to emigrant advice and colonial “intelligence”. Their conflicting content indicates that while the editors personally disagreed with emigration, this stance was not commercially viable.

Finally, a comparison of reactions by family and friends remaining in Scotland suggests that most saw the practical benefits of emigration, both to the emigrants and those left behind, but had a very strong emotional reaction against it nonetheless. It further suggests that when present, emotional factors, such a need for communal identity and support, were usually more important than economic issues in dictating long-distance migration.

Overall, this dissertation argues that a re-examination of the role played by sending communities is vital to a more accurate understanding of the emigration process as a whole.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Scottish Emigration, Scottish Provincial Press, Agricultural Improvement, Rural Change, Scottish Borders
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > History
Supervisor's Name: Cowan, Professor Edward J. and Kidd, Professor Colin
Date of Award: 2009
Depositing User: Miss Melodee Beals
Unique ID: glathesis:2009-880
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 29 Jun 2009
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:27

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