Introduction to Voyagers to the West–

Bernard Bailyn’s in-depth study of The Peopling of British North America is introduced by a short overview of his belief that the major shift of population from the British Isles  and Western Europe was

  1. First, the need for a consistent labor supply.
  2. Second, extensive land speculation which attracted both family units and enterprising entrepreneurs toward new settlement borders.

This movement of people from one continent to another is well documented–formal government-issued documents, which have survived, and private archives of companies and specific individuals that increasingly ended up in archives where they could be studied.

Remember that I read the footnotes/endnotes first. Then I review the bibliography of sources. Finally, I read the text. Rarely do I begin on page one. The Table of Contents and List of illustrations actually determines where I begin reading. And Bailyn’s work accommodates this kind of learning.

An exploding growth in population in Britain allowed for 69% of the natural increase to collect in London and to shift to North America, 1649-1699. This phenomenon was identified by E.A. Wrigley and R.S. Schofield, Population History of England, 1541-1871 (Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, 1981). And it continued with a total of 20% of the natural increase to 1801. This overflow of people provided steady growth and ensured that English would remain the majority language and cultural base for Colonial America.

Please include this introduction to Voyagers to the West, first delivered as scholarly lectures for the University of Wisconsin, 1985. Three lectures to stimulate your interest and thinking about the magnetic pull of America for the population of Europe and the British Isles. Your favorite genealogist, Arlene Eakle

PS I frequently carry this little volume with me when I travel. It focuses my attention on the reality of migration to America–who came, why they left, and what they brought with them to our American beginnings.

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