On the global stage the British diaspora, proportionate to its population, remains one of the largest. This book is the first social history to explore experiences of British emigrants from the peak years of the 1960s to the emigration resurgence of the turn of the twentieth century. It explores migrant experiences in Australia, Canada and New Zealand alongside other countries. The book charts the gradual reinvention of the 'British diaspora' from a postwar migration of austerity to a modern migration of prosperity. It is divided into two parts. First part presents a decade-by-decade chronology of changes in migration patterns and experience, progressing gradually from the postwar migration of austerity to a more discretionary mobility of affluence. It discusses 'pioneers of modern mobility'; the 1970s rise in non-white migration and the decline of British privilege in the old Commonwealth countries of white settlement; 'Thatcher's refugees' and cosmopolitanism and 'lifestyle' migration. Second part shifts from a chronological to a thematic focus, by drilling down into some of the more prominent themes encountered. It explores the interplay of patterns of change and continuity in the migrant careers of skilled workers, trade unionists, professionals and mobile academics. The push and pull of private life, migration to transform a way of life, and migrant and return experiences discussed highlight the underlying theme of continuity amidst change. The long process of change from the 1960s to patterns of discretionary, treechange and nomadic migration became more common practice from the end of the twentieth century.
Emerging tendencies like cosmopolitanism and 'lifestyle' migration ambitions are part of a longer continuity of patterns in modern migration which developed and intensified only very gradually. Cosmopolitanism and global citizenship identities, of course, are not an inevitable outcome of frequent mobility, and serial migration has not always sprung from global consciousness. All migrant stories necessarily focus on the individual's life history, expressed in a myriad of different ways. Barbara Ingram-Monk's and Tanya Piejus's stories suggest how less tangible motivations could drive migration decisions; they also illustrate ways in which women's global thinking has influenced and articulated their migration practice. For Barbara the move to New Zealand, although demanding some difficult 'emotional adjustments', was deeply satisfying, but a return trip to England in 2006 prompted a different set of conflicting emotions about the country she had left.
This chapter shows how expatriate mobility might be alienating, especially for spouses, and discourage migration. Long before migrant mobility became democratised in the late twentieth century some industries and occupations had routinely facilitated global circulation. At first glance there seems little to distinguish the fortunes of skilled migrants of the 1970s and after from their forebears of the immediate postwar decades. It is true that trade union leadership provided a career pathway for some skilled British migrants, even when the strength and size of trade union membership was in decline. New industries spawned by the IT revolutions from the 1980s generated some of the most visible young highly skilled migrants; their mobility did much to change the face of modern migration. The chapter also shows how the rise of multinational corporations fostered expatriate employment with senior executives and skilled professionals enjoying consecutive postings, often to the more remote outposts.
Late twentieth-century British emigration and global identities – the end of the ‘British World’?
A. James Hammerton
British emigration has undergone significant changes since the heyday of the immediate post-war emigration schemes to Commonwealth countries of settlement. 'British Diaspora' is used to describe the outflow of British citizens, notwithstanding some of the persuasive reservations about its applicability which have been advanced cogently by Stephen Constantine. British migrants adopt the varieties of global and European identities with varying degrees of enthusiasm. As early as the 1950s the eager young British sojourners who seized the new, usually assisted, migration opportunities to embark on long-term working holidays around the world were as often women as men. Indeed, many female occupations, such as nursing, physiotherapy, clerical work and hairdressing, were uniquely mobile and in high demand. The brief portrait sketches of young women migrants since the 1980s illustrate some of the ways in which Europe has become inter-twined with the migrant mentality.
Family priorities can eclipse career in the quest for a new life, and migrations sparked initially by work or adventure can be vulnerable to unanticipated turns in family relationships. If work, career and opportunity have been primary drivers of migration, dynamics of family and marriage have been no less powerful in shaping migrants' life stories. The rising tide of divorce from the 1960s began to disrupt the common postwar narrative of stable family migration, so it is hardly surprising that marital and family dysfunction and dispersal came increasingly to dominate migrant memories. On the brighter side migration can operate as a spur to marriage, facilitate modern forms of extended family 'chain' and retirement migration and provide a stage for the global drama of moving love stories. 'Happy families', especially mobile ones, have their own stories of emotional pain to tell, and few resemble each other.
Lifestyle goals, in the youthful voice of modern mobility, could be pursued globally, at least until imperatives of children and schooling might intervene. Few stories encapsulate so thoroughly the evolving nature of lifestyle factors in migration, from Jennie Christie's impulsive desires for youthful adventure to taken-for-granted notions of adult mobility and grey nomad roving in retirement. Marcus Daley's story, with lifestyle ambitions mostly yet to be realised, typifies those of a young generation of enthusiastic migrants at the beginning of the twenty-first century. But young migrants have no monopoly on the pursuit of lifestyle passions. During retirement years, the wandering life of grey nomads has become one of the last acts of serial migration. The emigration of affluence, central to modern Western mobility, is routinely driven by lifestyle aspirations rather than strictly economic ones.
Changes in British migration practice since the end of the Second World War have been dramatic, reflecting the modernisation of British society itself. With a few exceptions postwar British migrants, mostly dispersed in suburban settlements, found companionship among a mixture of British, locally born and other migrants. Sushi Das's story highlights issues of racial identity within a migration story otherwise familiar to generations of British migrants. For returnees from Commonwealth countries another migration to the continent might seem relatively painless, with bonuses like proximity to Britain for return visits. Historians of the various ethnic components of British migration have stressed the importance of the 'associational cultures' over time, but few have demonstrated a case for their representativeness of wider immigrant populations. In the highly individualised contexts of British migration, and of a relatively weak associational culture in Britain, new migrants would more likely seek belonging in family, work and neighbourhood.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in the subsequent chapters of this book. The book is about people like Jenny Armati and the Beth Hamsons, a new generation of migrants who, from the late 1960s, began to encounter a shifting set of global conditions for their mobility. It discusses the wider significance of modern British migration to Europe, especially Spain and France, which to date has been studied more thoroughly by social anthropologists than by historians. The book presents a decade-by-decade chronology of changes in migration patterns and experience, progressing gradually from the postwar migration of austerity to a more discretionary mobility of affluence. It explores the emerging tendencies of cosmopolitanism and 'lifestyle' migration from the 1990s. The book focuses on ways in which love, marriage and family determined or were affected by migration, often outweighing the conventional motivations of career and opportunity.
The postwar generation of British emigrants, more than two million of them from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s, constituted one of the largest mass migrations in the country's history. The diversity of migration experience was widened by the mid-century shadow of British imperialism, and ways in which the middle and upper classes imported old habits of easy mobility to new migration opportunities. Miles Marshall's sojourning illustrates some of the novel ways in which the new postwar mobility and wider work opportunities, especially in the British world, were democratising travel and migration. Men were not the sole pioneers of postwar sojourning, although women often experienced global mobility in relational roles as daughters or wives. Family life finally put an end to Miles's sojourning, but not to his mobility, which he now enjoyed mostly with his family.
The expanding rates of British emigration and mobility, which had marked the immediate postwar generation, seem to have continued with little significant change into the 1970s. Michelle Payne's story points us to new ways in which the conventional British migrant profile was being unsettled, albeit among a tiny minority. The bare bones of her family's migration experience were in the classic mould of the postwar narrative of Britons seeking a better life abroad. Maurice Bassindale's global trajectory, first as an expatriate worker in the 1970s, later as a serial migrant, illustrates some of the ways in which habits of continuous movement around the world could come to be taken for granted while remaining subject to the ties of family. As the educational and socio-economic profiles of British emigrants began to change from the 1960s, new dimensions of race relations stimulated a more complex range of racial attitudes.