The Great Migration No Opportunity in Britain

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The Great Migration

No Opportunity in Britain:

  • Industrial Revolution – People lost jobs due to the automated machines in factories

  • Buy Outs – Large farms bought out small farms

  • Napoleonic Wars End Between France and Britain – The economy slows down

  • Irish Potato Famine – a potato disease caused starvation

Opportunity in the Colonies:

  • Colonies in BNA (British North America)were a place for people to move and start over

  • Britain encouraged people to emigrate from Britain and more to the colonies. How did this solve Britain’s economic troubles?

There were more people than jobs.

How did the Great Migration Affect BNA?

  • More land was cleared for farms

  • Many new people in BNA (mostly British)


1. Make and print a graph of the population in BNA

a) before the Great Migration (1806)

b) after the Great Migration (1851)

Your graph will include the following areas of BNA:

  • Upper Canada

  • Lower Canada

  • Nova Scotia

  • New Brunswick

  • Prince Edward Island

  • Newfoundland

See Population Graphs of BNA.

2. Examine the cartoon.

This cartoon was in the British magazine Punch in 1848.

What message does it convey about emigration?

In the cartoon, the family appears destitute and starving in their homeland of Britain (or somewhere in Europe), as represented by the title “at home”.

For the illustration entitled “abroad,” the family appears prosperous, well-fed, domiciled and happy.

How realistic do you think the message was and why?

The message might be realistic for those families who were lucky in their emigration to Canada.

Many, however, were not lucky, and ended up working as low-pay labourers, died of sickness and disease (often from the ocean crossing), had to join the army, or in some cases returned to their homelands.

3. Examine the painting.

British painter Philip John Bainbrigge painted this in 1838.

What would settlers have thought of when viewing this painting?

They would have viewed it as an opportunity for a better life.

What would the Anishinabe people have thought of when viewing this painting?

Farms restricted access to land, and land is the spiritual, cultural and economic foundation of First Nations. So, clearing the land had:

  • Spiritual Consequences: settlement disrupted traditional ways, and traditional relationships to the land.

  • Economic Consequences: people could not make their living as easily from the land. For example, farms made it difficult for the Anishinabe to change location with the seasons, as they traditionally had done.

  • Social Consequences: people could not make their living in traditional ways; they had to take on new roles, such as becoming farmers themselves.

  • Health Consequences: for example, settlement disrupted wildlife, a food source.

4. Vocabulary


A person intending to establish a home and citizenship in a country that is not their native country


A person who leaves their native country to establish a home and citizenship in another country (emigrant and immigrant describe the same person at different points in the process of moving between countries)

Demographic Change

Change in the characteristics of a population


A shortage of food leading to starvation for many people

5. Think back to the Loyalist migration.

What similarities exist between the Loyalist migration and the Great Migration?

Both migrations brought large groups of English-speaking people to BNA. The Loyalist migration triggered an emphasis on British institutions in BNA, because many of the Loyalists were British.

How might the Great Migration pose a challenge for Canadiens in British North America?

Because the Great Migration also brought large groups of English-speaking people to BNA, there may be more emphasis on British institutions in BNA again. These institutions could be reinforced.

6. Why was there a need for a quarantine at Grosse Île, Quebec?

Because many European countries were experiencing epidemics, the emigrants brought these diseases over to BNA. Infected people would go straight from the ships to the quarantine to help control the spread of disease.

Where in Quebec would you guess Grosse Île is located?

-Where the ships docked: the Gulf of St. Lawrence

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