This impressive scholarly study is based on a doctoral thesis submitted in the University of Leicester in 2009 and is founded on an exhaustive search of primary and secondary source materials, notably census returns, official papers, newspaper columns and estate archives. Its focus is depopulation and migration from the rural county of Cardiganshire, exceptionally isolated on the western seaboard of Wales.
A scholarly survey of the economic and social structure of remote Cardiganshire from the late eighteenth century, supported by numerous helpful tables and graphs, leads to a consideration of the once-important role of the lead-mining industry, now largely masked, in the county’s economy. This industry, we are informed, ‘impacted in the county’s northern uplands in unexpected ways’ (p. 40).
The author analyses in depth the factors which brought about ‘the decision to move’ away from Cardiganshire, notably the impact of the agrarian depression, increasing mechanisation in farming practices, problems over tenure, and the steady decline in the numerous, once-buoyant rural trades and crafts. Striking developments in communications and transport much facilitated the large-scale migration. Rigorous employment of successive census returns from 1841 illuminates the complex migration patterns which formed.
Subsequent chapters are devoted to a consideration of the movements to ever more industrial and urbanised south Wales, especially the burgeoning coalfield valley communities there, the great metropolis of London (a lure for many ambitious Welsh people from the fifteenth century onwards), and Liverpool and the surrounding areas, followed by migration overseas. Throughout these chapters the focus is mainly on the first half of the nineteenth century, for which the sources are fuller and yield more concrete information.
Finally, the experience of Cardiganshire is delineated against parallel studies of other parts of the United Kingdom and the unique characteristics of the county are pointed up. The county’s rural population increased steadily until the 1860s, and then fell steadily, while the urban population continued to increase into the twentieth century, accounting for about one-quarter of the population of Cardiganshire by 1901.
But these few towns were relatively small in size and thus unable to absorb the excess population of the county’s rural areas which was then forced to migrate to other areas and destinations. The author shows that the number of farm workers in the county declined even more rapidly than the number of farmers. Rural trades and crafts declined steadily too, with the sole exception of the successful woollen industry. The once-prosperous lead industry continued to go downhill throughout this period. Rural poverty and declining employment prospects were accentuated still further by the desire for an improved standard of living elsewhere.
J. Graham Jones
It is possible to use this review for promotional purposes, but the following acknowledgment should be included: A review from www.gwales.com, with the permission of the Welsh Books Council.
Gellir defnyddio'r adolygiad hwn at bwrpas hybu, ond gofynnir i chi gynnwys y gydnabyddiaeth ganlynol: Adolygiad oddi ar www.gwales.com, trwy ganiatâd Cyngor Llyfrau Cymru.
Chapter One Nineteenth-century Cardiganshire: its economy and society
Chapter Two The role of the lead mining industry
Chapter Three The decision to move
Chapter Four Rural out-migration trends: the census evidence
Chapter Five The move to south Wales
Chapter Six The lure of London
Chapter Seven The move to Liverpool and the north-west
Chapter Eight Emigration
Chapter Nine Conclusion
Dr. K. Cooper is retired; she received her PhD at Leicester University.
This study provides insights into the motivations for and factors involved in migration and, using contemporary source material and computer-assisted analysis of census enumerators' books examines key dimensions of the communities at the major migrant destinations - Glamorgan, Carmarthenshire, London and Merseyside in Britain, and Ohio and Wisconsin, USA.