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British workers emigrating to industrialising Europe, 1815-c.1870

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Labour and Migration (British workers emigrating to industrialising Europe, 1815-c.1870)

Reporting period: 2016-09-01 to 2018-08-31

This project built on my ongoing study of British workers who went to France. In the decades that followed the end of the Napoleonic wars, France was the major destination for British skilled workers. Several factors contributed to this trend. The size of the country and its closeness to Britain, the fact that France was lagging behind British industry in several sectors, and the Anglomania of some in the French elite, created abundant opportunities in France for British investors, engineers and workers. For instance, the railway line between Paris and Le Havre, was built by Britons between 1841 and 1847. It was a technical achievement, with many bridges, long tunnels and stunning viaducts. Its financial capital was Scottish and French; it was built under the supervision of a British engineer, Joseph Locke, whose British contractors, William Mackenzie and Thomas Brassey, became two of the most successful 19th-century railway entrepreneurs. All in all, Brassey built some 1,500 km of railways in France, as well as between Bilbao and Miranda (Spain), Charleroi and Givet (Belgium), Buffalera, Torino (Italy) and Culoz (France), Pistoia and Prato (Italy), Amsterdam (Netherlands) and Emmerich (Germany). Likewise John Cockerill played a decisive part in building the first railroads in Belgium, using machinery purchased from the British engineers Robert and George Stephenson. Early German railroads also relied upon British locomotives, initially driven by British mechanics. More generally, British machines were sold across Europe.
What social and cultural factors enabled British capital to flow to continental enterprise, British skills to shape labour processes in Europe and British male and female labourers to seek and find continental employment? More broadly, how did these phenomena play out on the continent in this period? What were the practicalities of labour migration? Did migrant Britons constitute isolated or relatively integrated communities? Why and how were they targeted by xenophobic riots? What were their religious and cultural lives? Were they involved in trade unions or political associations? To address these questions, this project has focused on four aspects of the social and cultural history of British influence. First, it has assessed the quantitative parameters of this migration; second, it has examined the practicalities of migration; third, it has explored British migrants’ relations to and integration with local populations; fourth, it has examined the cultural, religious and associational activities of migrants—their schools, religious practices, associations, newspapers, games and leisure.
During the two years of the fellowship, I carried out substantial archival research:
- National Archives (Kew) in London
- British Library (London)
- Mackenzie Archive at the Institute of Civl Engineers (London)
- Nottinghamshire County Archives (Nottingham, UK)
- Fonds Maiham Cockerill at the University of Liège (Belgium)
- Archives de l’État in Liège (Belgium)
- Archives royales de Belgique à Bruxelles (Belgium)
- Archives nationales (Pierrefitte-sur-Seine, France)
- Archives municipales de Calais (France)
- Archives départementales du Pas-de-Calais (Arras, France)
- Archives départementales de l’Eure (Evreux, France)
- Archives départementales de la Seine-Maritime (Rouen, France)
- Archives départementales de la Seine-et-Oise (Saint-Quentin en Yvelines, France)
As for the records I need at the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam, I went through them online.

I have presented my research in 14 seminars and conferences in Britain, France and India.
I have published the following books:
Fabrice Bensimon (éd.), Les Sentiers de l’ouvrier. Le Paris des artisans britanniques (autobiographies, 1815-1850). Textes de John Colin, Charles Manby Smith et William Duthie, traduits de l’anglais par Sabine Reungoat. Paris, Éditions de la Sorbonne, 2017, 138 p.
Fabrice Bensimon, Quentin Deluermoz et Jeanne Moisand (eds.), “Arise Ye Wretched of the Earth”. The First International in a global perspective, Leiden, Brill, 2018, 404 p.
I have published or I am publishing the following articles
Fabrice Bensimon and Christopher A. Whatley, “The thread of migration: a Scottish-French linen and jute works and its workers in France, c.1840-c.1870”, Journal of Migration History, 2, 2016, pp. 120-147
“Calais: 1816-2016”, History Today website, 24 October 2016
(submitted and accepted by Continuity and Change. A Journal of Social Structure, Law and Demography in Past Societies): “The emigration of British lace makers to continental Europe (1816-1860s)”. This is part of a special issue I have edited on British labour emigration to continental Europe, for which I also wrote an introduction. This will be published in issue 34.1 April 2019)
« Comment ils ont inventé l’industrie », Les Collections de l’Histoire, n°77, octobre 2017, pp. 58-65.
(submitted to Textile. Cloth and Culture): “‘We are in the depth of poverty [and] our children are crying for bread.’ Women and children in the machine-made lace industry in Britain and France (1810-1860)”
(submitted and accepted by Diasporas : « À bas les Anglais ! » Mobilisations collectives contre des Britanniques, de la monarchie de Juillet à la révolution de 1848 »)
COllective reading of a Chartist newspaper to British workers in a linen factory, Landerneau, 1849