Socio-economic Dislocation and Inter-war Emigration to Canada and the United States: a Scottish Snapshot

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During the 1920s emigration from Scotland exceeded the natural growth of population. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to the mechanisms of relocation, the regional and occupational origins and destinations of the emigrants or their demographic profile. This article draws on the recently compiled Scottish Emigration Database to provide a quantitative snapshot of the circumstances of 18,512 passengers who embarked on the lower Clyde in the first four months of 1923. The first section explains the rationale, methodology and historiographical context of the database. Then, after outlining the economic, social and political climate in inter-war Scotland, the article investigates the extent to which decay, dislocation and disillusionment - or alternatively opportunity and ambition - provoked transatlantic emigration. Reference is made to local and regional issues within Scotland, notably in the urban-industrial central belt and the crofting communities of the Hebrides. Setting the Scottish experience within the wider framework of British emigration policy between the wars, it also evaluates the effectiveness of empire settlement legislation in recruiting and retaining settlers for Canada against the competing attractions of the United States.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-552
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2006


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