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Introduction to the Special Issue

  • Fabrice Bensimon (a1)

Abstract

In the period 1815–1870, several thousand British workers and engineers went to the continent for work purposes, playing a decisive part in European industrialisation. Workers emigrated because they could market their skills at good value; or because their British employers sought to make the most of their technical lead by setting businesses up abroad, and by producing on the continent, they could avoid protective tariffs.

Which social and cultural factors enabled British capital to flow to continental and indeed global enterprise, British skills to shape labour processes overseas, and British male and female labourers to seek and find overseas employment? This introduction to the Special Issue raises a series of questions on these flows. It asks what numbers went to the continent, in comparison with the large flows to the US and the British World. It addresses the legislative and economic aspects of these labour migrations and tries to relate these to the discussion on the supposed ‘high-wage economy’ of the British industrial revolution. It also focuses on the practicalities of migration. Last, it is also interested in the cultural, religious and associational life of the British migrants, as well as in the relations with the local populations.

Entre 1815 et 1870, des milliers d'ouvriers et d'ingénieurs britanniques se rendirent sur le continent européen pour y travailler et jouèrent un rôle décisif dans l'industrialisation européenne. Les ouvriers émigraient parce qu'ils pouvaient négocier leurs compétences à bon prix, ou bien parce que leurs patrons britanniques cherchaient à tirer le meilleur parti de leur avance technologique en établissant des entreprises à l’étranger et, en produisant sur le continent, ils pouvaient éviter les tarifs douaniers.

Quels furent les facteurs socio-culturels qui permirent au capital britannique de s'investir dans les entreprises continentales − et même mondiales −, aux compétences britanniques de venir façonner les processus de production à l’étranger et aux travailleurs et travailleuses britanniques de chercher et de trouver du travail à l’étranger? Cette introduction au numéro spécial soulève une série de questions sur ces mouvements. On se demande combien de migrants sont allés sur le continent, par rapport aux importants flux vers les États-Unis et le monde britannique. Les aspects législatifs et économiques de ces migrations de main-d’œuvre sont abordés et l'on tente de les relier aux débats sur l'hypothèse de l'effet économique des hauts salaires sur la révolution industrielle britannique. On se concentre également sur les aspects pratiques de la migration. Enfin, la vie culturelle, religieuse et associative de ces migrants britanniques est abordée, ainsi que leurs rapports avec les populations locales.

Im Zeitraum 1815–1870 gingen mehrere tausend britische Arbeiter und Ingenieure zur Arbeit auf den Kontinent, wo sie eine entscheidende Rolle für die europäische Industrialisierung spielten. Arbeiter wanderten aus, weil sie ihre Fertigkeiten gut vermarkten konnten; oder auch, weil ihre britischen Arbeitgeber das Beste aus ihrer technischen Führungsposition zu machen suchten, indem sie im Ausland Unternehmen gründeten, zumal sie durch Produktion auf dem Kontinent Schutzzölle vermeiden konnten.

Welche sozialen und kulturellen Faktoren machten es möglich, dass britisches Kapital in kontinentale oder globale Unternehmen floss, dass britische Fertigkeiten die Arbeitsprozesse im Ausland prägten, und dass britische Arbeiter beiderlei Geschlechts im Ausland Beschäftigung suchten und fanden?

In diesem Sinne wirft die Einführung zum vorliegenden Themenheft eine Reihe von Fragen auf. Sie fragt danach, wie viele Menschen auf den Kontinent gingen, im Vergleich zu den großen Strömen in die Vereinigten Staaten und in die britische Welt. Sie behandelt die gesetzlichen und ökonomischen Aspekte dieser Arbeitsmigrationen und versucht, diese mit der Diskussion über die vermeintliche ‚Hochlohnökonomie’ der britischen industriellen Revolution zu verknüpfen. Sie thematisiert ferner die praktischen Abläufe der Migration. Schließlich nimmt sie auch die kulturellen, religiösen und gemeinschaftlichen Belange der britischen Migranten und ihre Beziehungen mit den Bevölkerungen vor Ort in den Blick.

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Corresponding author

*Corresponding author. Email: fabrice.bensimon@sorbonne-universite.fr

References

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Notes

1 Harris, John Raymond, Industrial espionage and technology transfer: Britain and France in the eighteenth century (Aldershot, 1998).

2 Henderson, W. O., Britain and Industrial Europe 1750–1870: studies in British influence on the Industrial Revolution in western Europe (Liverpool, 1954). See also Bret, Patrice, Gouzévitch, Irina and Pérez, Liliane eds., ‘Les techniques et la technologie entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne XVIIe–XIXe siècles’, Documents pour l'histoire des techniques 19 (2010).

3 Pollard, Sidney, Peaceful conquest: the Industrialization of Europe 1760–1970 (Oxford, 1981), 144–6.

4 Evans, Chris and Rydén, Göran eds., The industrial revolution in iron – the impact of British coal technology in nineteenth-century Europe (Aldershot, 2005); Fremdling, Rainer, ‘The puddler: a craftsmen's skill and the spread of a new technology in Belgium, France and Germany’, Journal of European Economic History 20, 3 (1991), 529–67.

5 Harris, Industrial espionage and technology transfer; Hilaire-Pérez, Liliane, ‘Transferts technologiques, droit et territoire: le cas franco-anglais au XVIIIe siècle’, Revue d'histoire moderne et contemporaine 44, 4 (October to December 1997), 547–79; Bret, Gouzévitch and Pérez eds., Les techniques et la technologie entre la France et la Grande-Bretagne XVIIe–XIXe siècles’.

6 Hilaire-Pérez, Liliane and Verna, Catherine, ‘Dissemination of technical knowledge in the Middle Ages and the early modern era: new approaches and methodological issues’, Technology and Culture 47, 3 (2006), 536–65.

7 On domestic migration, see Arthur Redford, Labour migration in England: 1800–1850, 2nd edn rev. by W. H. Chaloner (Manchester, 1964 [orig. pub. 1926]); Baines, Dudley, Migration in a mature economy: emigration and internal migration in England and Wales, 1861–1900 (Cambridge, 1985); Pooley, Colin and Turnbull, Jean, Migration and mobility in Britain since the eighteenth century (London, 1998).

8 Belich, James, Replenishing the earth: the settler revolution and the rise of the Anglo-world, 1783–1939 (Oxford and New York, 2009).

9 Harper, Marjory, ‘Obstacles and opportunities: labour emigration to the “British World” in the nineteenth century’, Continuity and Change 34, 1 (2019), this Special Issue.

10 Erickson, Charlotte, Leaving England: essays on British emigration in the nineteenth century (Ithaca, NY, 1994); Richards, Eric, Britannia's children: emigration from England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland Since 1600 (London, 2004); Harper, Marjory, ‘British migration and the peopling of the Empire’, in Porter, Andrew ed., Oxford history of the British Empire: the 19th century (Oxford, 1999), 7587; ed., Marjory Harper, Emigrant homecomings: the return movement of emigrants, 1600–2000 (Manchester, 2000); Harper, Marjory and Constantine, Stephen, Migration and empire (Oxford, 2010).

11 Buchanan, R. A., ‘The diaspora of British engineering’, Technology and Culture 27, 3 (July 1986), 501–24; Buchanan, R. A., ‘The British contribution to Australian engineering’, Historical Studies 20, 80 (1983), 401–19; Sinclair, Bruce, ‘Canadian technology: British traditions and American influences’, Technology and Culture 20 (January 1979), 108–23; Stromquist, Shelton, ‘Railroad labor and the global economy: historical patterns’, in Lucassen, Jan ed., Global labour history: a state of the art (Bern, 2006), 623–47; Kerr, Ian, Building the railways of the Raj, 1850–1900 (Delhi, 1995).

12 Headrick, Daniel, The tentacles of progress: technology transfer in the Age of Imperialism, 1850–1940 (Oxford, 1988); Headrick, Daniel, The tools of empire: technology and European imperialism in the 19th century (New York, 1981).

13 Morieux, Renaud, The Channel: England, France and the construction of a maritime border in the eighteenth century (Cambridge, 2016).

14 Carrier, N. H. and Jeffery, J. R., External migration: a study of the available statistics 1815–1950 (London, 1953), 93, 95–6.

15 See Pooley and Turnbull, Migration and mobility in Britain.

16 Brooke, David, The railway navvy: ‘that despicable race of men’ (Newton Abbot, 1983); Brooke, David, William Mackenzie: international railway builder and civil engineer (London, 2004).

17 Kiernan, Michael T., The engineers of Cornwall at the mines of Pontgibaud in France (Redruth, 2016).

18 Lebrun, Pierre, Bruwier, Marinette, Dhondt, Jan and Hansotte, Georges, Essai sur la révolution industrielle en Belgique (Bruxelles, 1979); Gayot, Gérard, ‘La classe ouvrière saisie par la révolution industrielle à Verviers, 1800–1810’, Revue du Nord 84, 347 (octobre 2002), 633–66; Lebrun, Pierre, L'industrie de la laine à Verviers pendant le XVIIIe et le début du XIXe siècle: contribution à l’étude des origines de la révolution industrielle (Liège, 1948).

19 Rainer Fremdling, ‘Foreign craftsmanship and foreign technology for German industrialization’, unpublished paper presented at the UCL conference ‘British Labour and Migration during Industrialisation’, 7 July 2017.

20 Bruland, Kristine, British technology and European industrialization: the Norwegian textile industry in the mid-nineteenth century (Cambridge, 1989).

21 See below: Peltola, Jarmo, ‘The British contribution to the birth of the Finnish cotton industry (1820–1870)’, Continuity and Change 34, 1 (2019), this Special Issue.

22 Janků, Jitka, Historie textilní výroby v Letovicích [The History of textile production in Letovice] (Brno, 2015).

23 Stearns, Peter N., ‘Britain and the spread of the Industrial Revolution’, in Bartlett, C. J. ed., Britain pre-eminent: studies of British world influence in the nineteenth century (London, 1969), 14.

24 Chrimes, Michael, Murphy, Mary K. and Ribeill, Georges eds., Mackenzie – giant of the railways: William Mackenzie (1794–1851) and the construction of the early European railway network (London, 1994).

25 Raveux, Olivier, ‘Les ingénieurs anglais de la Provence maritime sous la monarchie de Juillet’, Provence historique 177 (1994), 301–20.

26 Alcantud, Cristina Roda, ‘The modernization of the naval military industry in Spain in the nineteenth century: the example of Cartagena's arsenal’, Journal of European Economic History 41, 3 (2012), 1143.

27 Gaskell, Elizabeth, Mary Barton (Oxford, 2008 [orig. pub. 1848]), 28.

28 Allen, Robert, The British Industrial Revolution in global perspective (Cambridge, 2009).

29 Humphries, Jane, ‘The lure of aggregates and the pitfalls of the patriarchal perspective: a critique of the high wage economy interpretation of the British industrial revolution’, Economic History Review 66, 3 (2013), 693714. See also Humphries, Jane and Schneider, Benjamin, ‘Spinning the Industrial Revolution’, Economic History Review 72, 1 (2019), 126–55.

30 Harris, John Raymond, Industrial espionage and technology transfer: Britain and France in the eighteenth century (Aldershot, 1998).

31 Evidence given by Mr Alexander, 2 March 1824, in First Report from Select Committee on Artizans and Machinery, House of Commons Parliamentary Papers Online, <http://parlipapers.chadwick.co.uk>, 51, 108; [Charles Ross], ‘1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th Reports, from the select Committee on Artizans and Machinery’, Quarterly Review xxxi (March 1825), 392–3.

32 Statistique de la France publiée par le ministère de l'agriculture, du commerce et des travaux publics: Résultats du recensement de 1851 (Paris, 1855).

33 Colin, John [pseud.], The wanderer brought home: the life and adventures of Colin; an autobiography (London, 1864).

34 Claxton, Timothy, ‘Memoirs’, in his Hints to mechanics on self-education and mutual instruction (London, 1839), 137.

35 Smith, Charles Manby, The working man's way in the world (London, 1853).

36 Holyoake, G. J., The life and character of Henry Hetherington (London, 1849), 5.

37 Duthie, William, A tramp's wallet: stored by an English goldsmith during his wanderings in Germany and France (London, 1858).

38 See autobiographical evidence of Henry Dove, railway mechanic, in Blount, Edward, Memoirs of Sir Edward Blount (London, 1902).

39 Colin Pooley, ‘Placing British labour migration in context: motives and meanings of population movement in nineteenth-century Europe’, paper presented at the UCL conference ‘British Labour and Migration during Industrialisation’, 7 July 2017.

40 Faucheur, Narcisse, Mon Histoire à mes chers enfants et petits-enfants (Paris, 1886).

41 Bensimon, Fabrice and Whatley, Christopher A., ‘The thread of migration: a Scottish-French linen and jute works and its workers in France, c. 1840–c. 1870’, Journal of Migration History 3 (2016).

42 Varouxakis, Georgios, Victorian political thought on France and the French (Basingstoke, 2002); Jones, Colin, ‘French crossings: I. Tales of two cities’, Transactions of the RHS 20 (2010), 126.

43 Bensimon, Fabrice, ‘British workers in France, 1815–1850’, Past & Present 213 (November 2011), 147–89.

44 Bensimon, ‘British workers in France’, 171–8; and ‘The emigration of British lacemakers to continental Europe (1816–1860s)’, Continuity and Change 34, 1 (2019), this Special Issue.

45 R. A. Buchanan, Diaspora of British engineering (1986), 503.

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Continuity and Change
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