The Cornish diaspora, 1815–1914
in British and Irish diasporas
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Cornwall was an emigration region comparable with any other in Europe during the nineteenth century, and in the period 1815–1914 some 250,000 people left for destinations overseas. Cornwall’s reputation as the global centre of the hard-rock mining world ensured that Cornish miners were perpetually in demand on the rapidly expanding international mining frontier, their emigration matched by a technological transfer to destinations as disparate as Mexico and South Australia. A Cornish transnational identity likewise emerged as Cornish miners cultivated their myth of Cousin Jack – the insistence that the Cornish were equipped above all others, especially competing ethnic groups on the international mining frontier, as miners – and a corresponding myth of Cousin Jenny emerged to create a critical space for Cornish women overseas. An emigration culture had emerged early in nineteenth-century Cornwall, speeding Cornish men and women to new destinations abroad, establishing conduits and destinations that would facilitate mass emigration during the crises facing the Cornish mining industry in the late 1800s. By the end of the century, South Africa had emerged as a principal destination for Cornish emigrants but by then the great Cornish emigration had almost run its course. Cornwall was no longer the centre of the mining world, its role usurped by the mines of the New World.

British and Irish diasporas

Societies, cultures and ideologies


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