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Indigent Misfits or Shrewd Operators? Government-assisted Emigrants from the United Kingdom to Australia, 1831-1860

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Passages funded by Australia's colonial governments accounted for 56 per cent of all arrivals from the United Kingdom between 1831 and 1860. In concert with a range of private, Colonial Office, and Poor Law sources in the UK, analysis of data on the emigrants' age, sex, occupation, county of origin, literacy, and religious persuasion, collected by colonial Immigration Agents, challenges the traditional view of Australia's government immigrants. Rather than indigent misfits, shovelled out by a system anxious to rid the UK of its poor, they were primarily well-informed, self-selecting, literate individuals who often sought help from philanthropic agencies or their local parish to enable them to finance their passage deposit, mandatory clothing, and travel to the port of embarkation. Comparative analysis of data on occupation and county of origin, which suggests that they were not the spillover of the North America-bound streams, further challenges the prevailing view.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 1994

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