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Aqa History Gcse 16 Mark Question Exemplar; Britain: Migration, Empires and the People: C790 to the Present Day

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AQA History GCSE 16 Mark Question Exemplar; Britain: Migration, empires and the people: c790 to the present day

Were economic factors the main factor in explaining why people migrated to, from and within Britain between 1700 and 1939?

Economic reasons were key in motivating migration between 1700 and 1939. However, changes in technology were probably more important, as they led to the economic changes. Also important were conflict and persecution.

Economic factors were key push factors from 1700 to the late 1800s, fuelling migration within Britain. In Scotland, for example, the unprofitability of renting land to peasants, compared to that of using the land for sheep farming, led many landlords to evict their tenants, fuelling the Highland Clearances of the 1780s to 1820s, during which poor rural Scots migrated to British cities like Glasgow and London, or to colonies like Canada, in search of a better life. Economic factors were also key pull factors later on, especially after the Indian colony became more economically prosperous. Many middle-class Brits signed up to work for the East India Company and become “nabobs”: East India Company officials who became wealthy through their work. People like Robert Clive, who participated in a local protection racket as a lower- to middle-class teenager in Britain, became wealthy thanks to their migration to and work in India.

Technological advancement was also integral in motivating migration. From around 1750, the Industrial Revolution caused rapid rural-to-urban migration. Advancements such as textile factories required many workers, attracting migrants from the rural periphery to cities in the North-east of England. The invention and increased use of the steam engine led to an explosion in the populations of mining communities- this growth was particularly noticeable in South Wales. This was at the same time as widespread mechanisation of farms, which led to a scarcity of rural jobs, pushing migrants to urban areas. As well as internal migration, changes in technology led to international migration; a notable example of this is New Zealand. The invention and improvement of refrigeration techniques meant that the island was able to begin exporting its surplus lamb, creating economic prosperity which acted as a pull factor for migrants from Britain. The shrewd Prime Minister, Julius Vogel, also utilised technology to attract British migrants by convincing the colonial government to take out a load to build up New Zealand’s railways. This further encouraged economic prosperity, helping to build New Zealand’s reputation as “a little piece of Britain” in the South Pacific and attracting more British migrants.

Another key factor in driving migration from 1700 to 1939 was conflict and persecution. For example, after the outbreak of the American War of Independence, the British needed soldiers, so Lord Dunmore promised the local black population their freedom if they would fight for the British. These “Black Loyalists” were eager to escape the persecution they faced as slaves and so agreed. After the war, 6000 Black Loyalists were taken from the new United States- many settled in London, and by the 1780s there was a small black population of a few hundred people in London. Persecution of Jewish people also drove migrants to Britain later on in this period; the pogroms of the anti-Semitic Russian state against Jews led 200,000 Jewish people to settle in Britain from 1881 to 1914; Hitler’s persecution of Jews motivated a further 70,000 migrants during the 1930s. Thus, conflict and persecution motivated sporadic spikes in migration to Britain from 1700 to 1939.


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