Emigration from the British Isles started with the colonisation of the New World but became a major movement in the nineteenth century, particularly to America and to the countries now known as the ‘Old’ Commonwealth; Australia, Canada and New Zealand; and to South Africa. Emigration to these countries was actively encouraged in that it built up a white population of British stock who would maintain the dominance of the existing white settlers and who could be expected to be supportive to the mother country. Emigrants were often poor and sought a new life in countries with labour shortages or ones where whites were likely to be favoured in employment. Some also have seen emigration as providing a greater opportunity of advancement for their children in countries with fewer class barriers to mobility. Emigration to the ‘new’ Commonwealth countries, mainly in Africa and Asia, tended to be middle-class and the emigrants went as administrators, traders or as owners of enterprises such as plantations or mines.
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