Title: Migration and the Origins of the English Atlantic World
Author: Alison Games
Categories: Atlantic World, Migration, Quantitative, Demographics
Place: Atlantic World, West Indies, Bermuda, Chesapeake, New England
Time Period: 1630s-1640s
Games examines a "1635 cohort" of nearly 5,000 travelers departing from London in order to identify people and then follow their journey to four major areas: the West Indies, Bermuda, Chesapeake, and New England. Instead of earlier immigration studies that look at the transfer of culture from England to the New World, or the importance of the New World environment, she argues for the importance of migration as a process that transformed and defined the Atlantic World, and more narrowly points to the 1630s as the formative decade that stabilized and secured the English American empire and set the course for future growth. Demographically, she finds that the need for labor resulted in the cohort being overwhelmingly young and overwhelmingly male servants (although New England's more balanced sex ratio and higher age differentiated it). These demographics played a major role in shaping the colonies and posed fundamental challenges to ordering and controlling society, including necessitating a revamping of traditional English families to include young live-in servants and diverse "family members" (ex. Indians and Africans). Migration shaped the Atlantic World by creating a society that was far more heterogeneous than England, with different regions of English living together alongside other Europeans, Africans, and Indians - all of which pointed to the limitations of trying to integrate the colonies into the England metropolis.
Her more focused analysis of the four areas finds variations between them. In the Chesapeake and Bermuda, there were massive income disparities and very few opportunities for advancement after an initial period, while in Barbados the transient nature of society allowed newcomers who stayed on the island to accumulate property (at least before the sugar boom of the 1640s). In New England, meanwhile, her major argument centers around geographic mobility, arguing that in New England, much like Old England, life was marked by transiency. This goes against prevailing historiographical schools of thought emphasizing permanence and stability of New England town life. For Games, migration was normative.
Key Themes and Concepts
- 1635 Cohort to four major areas: West Indies, Bermuda, Chesapeake, New England
- 1630s as a formative decade for English Atlantic World (stabilized it)
- Cohort Analysis
U.S. History Qualifying Exams: Book Summaries
by Cameron Blevins
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