Departures – our new podcast exploring 400 years of emigration from Britain
Departures is a new podcast from the Migration Museum exploring 400 years of emigration from Britain
What would it take for you to leave your home? To leave everything and everyone you know to move to another country and start again. Over the past 400 years, that’s exactly what millions of British people have been doing. Today, the news headlines are full of stories of migrants trying to come to Britain. But for most of this country’s history, it’s actually been the other way round. And Britain’s emigration rate remains one of the highest in the world. Why has such a small island nation produced so many migrants and how have they shaped the world we live in today? In a new podcast series Mukti Jain Campion speaks to people who are shedding new light on this often hidden history.
This podcast accompanies the Migration Museum’s exhibition Departures: 400 Years of Emigration from Britain.
Episode 5: The Leaving of Liverpool
Imagine you could go anywhere in the world – no passport needed. All around you there are posters and pamphlets extolling the virtues of emigration and offering incentives to ease your passage to settle in distant sun-kissed lands. Would you be tempted? From the early 19th century to the beginning of the First World War, it’s estimated that over 10 million British people chose to migrate. Most went to settle in the United States and around Britain’s growing empire. Over half of these emigrants left from the port of Liverpool.
Mukti Jain Campion talks to Ian Murphy, Director of the Merseyside Maritime Museum, to discover how the port of Liverpool became the gateway to millions of new lives abroad, and examines the importance of printed propaganda in fuelling 19th century British emigration with Dr Fariha Shaikh, Lecturer in Victorian Literature at the University of Birmingham and author of Nineteenth-Century Settler Emigration in British Literature and Art.
Episode 4: Emigration and Enslavement
The 17th century colonisation of North America and the Caribbean by emigrants from the British Isles was, almost from its beginning, dependent on the brutal forced transatlantic migration of millions of enslaved African people. Their labour made possible the industrial-scale production of lucrative crops such as tobacco, sugar and cotton which created the wealth, not just of individual British plantation owners, but of much of the wider British economy. Much of this history has remained hidden and only very recently have serious attempts begun to investigate and acknowledge the role that slavery played in Britain’s wealth, power and influence. But what if those investigations lead to your own front door and start to shatter your family myths?
Mukti Jain Campion explores this dark strand of British emigration history with Professor Matthew Smith, Director of the Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-Ownership at University College London; Madge Dresser, Honorary Professor of History, Bristol University and author of Slavery Obscured; Oliver Colegrave and his father Stephen Colegrave, co-founder of the Byline Times; and Sally Hadden, Associate Professor of History, Western Michigan University and author of Slave Patrols: Law and Violence in Virginia and the Carolinas.
Episode 3: The Company Men in India
Since the 1960s, large numbers of people have come to Britain from the Indian subcontinent. But for the preceding 350 years almost all migration was in the other direction. From the beginning of the 17th century when the first ships of the English East India Company set sail from London, India was seen as a place of fabulous wealth where huge fortunes could be made. As the Company’s trading posts around India flourished and the Company gained ever more political control, competition for Company jobs became intense. Tens of thousands of men from Britain ventured out to live an expat life in a country that was completely different to anything they had previously known. Most never returned.
Mukti Jain Campion speaks to historians William Dalrymple, Professor Rudrangshu Mukherjee, Dr Kate Teltscher and to Gurminder Bhambra, Professor of Postcolonial and Decolonial Studies at the University of Sussex, to find out more about the Company men who went to India and how their actions brought profound change for both Britain and India.
Episode 2: Maidens’ Voyage
Women are largely hidden from the history of early English emigration. But if you look hard enough you can sometimes catch glimpses of their stories in the archives. For example, in the early 17th century shiploads of young women were despatched to America by the Virginia Company of London. It was hoped they would marry the English planters in Jamestown and help grow the new colony.
But who were these young women prepared to travel thousands of miles across the ocean in search of a husband? And how did they fare? Mukti Jain Campion talks to Jennifer Potter, author of The Jamestown Brides: The Bartered Wives of the New World.
Episode 1: The Swarming of the English
Mass emigration from England first took off in the 17th century with the colonisation of America and the Caribbean. The number of people leaving the shores of England was huge and unprecedented.
Mukti Jain Campion speaks to historian James Evans, author of Emigrants: Why the English Sailed to the New World and to American historian Dr Linford Fisher to find out how those early English settlers fared and how Native Americans responded to the incursion of their lands.
Departures is a Culture Wise Production for the Migration Museum
Producer: Mukti Jain Campion
Title Music: Shakira Malkani
Graphic design: Roland Williams
Image credit: Osbert Parker from his video Timeline, as featured in the Migration Museum’s Departures exhibition