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Empire's Children
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Book description

Between 1869 and 1967, government-funded British charities sent nearly 100,000 British children to start new lives in the settler empire. This pioneering study tells the story of the rise and fall of child emigration to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Southern Rhodesia. In the mid-Victorian period, the book reveals, the concept of a global British race had a profound impact on the practice of charity work, the evolution of child welfare, and the experiences of poor children. During the twentieth century, however, rising nationalism in the dominions, alongside the emergence of new, psychological theories of child welfare, eroded faith in the 'British world' and brought child emigration into question. Combining archival sources with original oral histories, Empire's Children not only explores the powerful influence of empire on child-centered social policy, it also uncovers how the lives of ordinary children and families were forever transformed by imperial forces and settler nationalism.


'Boucher's work reveals how ideas about empire and nation building have informed child welfare programmes well into the twentieth century.'

Source: The Times Literary Supplement

'The book is well grounded in the recent extensive literature on ideas of the British Empire and 'Greater Britain' in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries … This book will probably not be the last word on the history of British child migration, but it is certainly the most comprehensive account to date.'

Geoffrey Sherington Source: Journal of British Studies

'Boucher has given us a quite complex narrative and analysis of both the practice and the discourse of child migration during the era of imperial decline.'

H. L. Malchow Source: The Journal of Modern History

'This is a well-researched and often moving book. It helps us to grasp the historically specific circumstances that made child emigration a political reality. And perhaps we are not so distant from these ways of thinking ourselves. As Boucher reminds us, current debates about the intercountry adoption underscore how the circulation of children (and controversies about the ethics therof) remains part of our present world.'

Jordanna Bailkin Source: Victorian Studies

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  • 1 - Poverty and possibility in the era of Greater Britain
    pp 23-52


Archival collections

United Kingdom

  • Boy Scouts Association Archive, Gilwell Park

    • Papers of the Emigration Department

  • Cambridge University Library, Royal Commonwealth Society, Cambridge (CUL: RCS)

    • Papers of the Royal Colonial Institute Emigration Committee

  • The National Archives, Public Record Office, Kew (TNA: PRO)

    • Cabinet (CAB)

    • Colonial Office (CO)

    • Dominions Office (DO)

    • Home Office (HO)

    • Law Officers (LO)

    • Ministry of Labour (LAB)

    • Ministry of Health (MH)

    • Ministry of the Treasury (T)

    • Registrar General’s Office (RG)

  • University of Liverpool, Special Collections and Archives, Liverpool (ULSCA)

    • Barnardo’s Homes Archive

    • Child Emigration (Fairbridge) Society Archive

    • National Children’s Home Archive

    • Papers of the Council of Voluntary Organisations for Child Emigration

  • University of Oxford, Bodleian Library, Oxford

    • Rhodes Trust Archive


  • Australian National Archives, Canberra (ANA)

    • Development and Migration

    • Home and Territories

    • Immigration and Lands

    • Interior

    • Post-war Reconstruction

    • Prime Minister’s Department

    • Transport

  • Barnardo’s New South Wales Archives, Ultima

    • Executive and Finance Committees

  • National Library of Australia, Canberra

    • Forgotten Children and Former Child Migrants Oral History Collection

  • State Archives of Western Australia, Battye Library, Perth (SAWA: BL)

    • Fairbridge Oral History Collection

    • Papers of the Western Australian Fairbridge Society

  • State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library, Sydney (SLNSW)

    • Papers of the New South Wales Fairbridge Society

    • Sherington Papers

United States

  • Vassar College, Special Collections and Archives

    • Margaret Bondfield Papers

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