The Cornish Overseas
A History of Cornwall's 'Great Emigration'
The story of the migration of the Cornish people throughout the world is an epic. First and foremost a maritime land, with links to the greater world beyond these islands stretching back into prehistoric times, Cornwall has experienced waves of emigration throughout its long history. The Cornish Overseas details the global impact of the most recent of these waves – the ‘Great Emigration’ that lasted for a little more than a century from 1815 until the First World War and after.
Cornish historians have long recognised the international significance of this wholesale scattering of the so-called Cousin Jacks and Jennies, but have yet to fully understand the consequences of this phenomenon. Including much new research undertaken in recent years, Philip Payton illustrates the effects on each region of the incursion of the Cornish diaspora.
Philip Payton is one of the world’s leading scholars of the movement of Cornish people over time, both within the United Kingdom and to the major mining and agricultural districts of the world. His accessible narrative covers the United States, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, continental South America and elsewhere.
The story of the migration of the Cornish people throughout the world is an epic. Philip Payton is one of the world's leading scholars of the movement of Cornish people over time, both within the United Kingdom and to the major mining and agricultural districts of the world. His accessible narrative covers the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, continental South America and elsewhere, and includes much new research undertaken in recent years.
From the Introduction:
“Cornwall is one the great emigration regions of Europe. First and foremost a maritime land, with links to a greater world beyond these islands stretching back even into prehistoric times, Cornwall has experienced at least two great waves of emigration in its long history. The first is shrouded in mystery, that still unexplained Dark Age exodus from south-western Britain which – somewhere between the 4th and 6th centuries AD – took hundreds, possibly thousands of settlers to the Armorican peninsula, present-day Brittany. Although its origins are obscure, the result of this emigration are everywhere apparent – not only in the common placenames and saints’ dedications that are evidence of the long historical entwinement of Cornwall and Brittany but in the expressions of present-day pan-Celtic sentiment which range from the twinning of Cornish and Breton towns to the formal regional accord between Cornwall County Council and the Département of Finistère.
“The second wave of mass Cornish emigration, that wholesale scattering of the so-called Cousin Jacks and Jennies known to modern scholars as the ‘Great Emigration’, is a far more recent phenomenon – running for little more than a century from 1815 until the First World War and after – but it has been truly global in its impact and may have consequences which even now are not fully played-out, let alone fully understood. Cornish historians have long recognised the international significance of the Great Emigration. A.L. Rowse considered that ‘the story of the Cornish emigration is the biggest and most significant of Cornish Themes’, a claim that he put to the test in The Cornish in America, published in 1969. A.C. Todd and John Rowe – those two other founding fathers of Cornish emigration history – also helped to pioneer the study of the Cornish abroad, pointing the way for alter writers who would take the story beyond the United States and Mexico to encompass Australia, South Africa, South America and elsewhere. Yet it is only very recently that we have been able to construct an overview of the Great Emigration in its entirety, to pull together the numerous strands of an extraordinarily complex and intriguing phenomenon. The result is this present volume: The Cornish Overseas.”
Chapter One: A Culture of Mobility
Chapter Two: The Rage for Emigration
Chapter Three: Bonanzas and Bugbears - Latin America
Chapter Four: From Famine to Frontier - The Hungry Forties and the First American Mining Boom
Chapter Five: South Australia's Copper Kingdom
Chapter Six: Gold! The Californian Rush
Chapter Seven: Gold! The Victorian Rush
Chapter Eight: Crashed Copper, Tumbled Tin & 'The Largest Cornish Communities Beyond Land's End'
Chapter Nine: New Frontiers - Australia
Chapter Ten: New Frontiers - North America
Chapter Eleven: 'But a Suburb of Cornwall' - South Africa
Chapter Twelve: 'All Hail! Old Cornwall! May Thy Glory Last' - The End of an Era
Chapter Thirteen: An Enduring Identity? The Cornish in a Globalised World
Notes and References
“I made very frequent use of The Cornish Overseas while writing my last monograph. It is a fine piece of scholarship, deeply researched, carefully arranged and beautifully presented… There has been a rapid growth of interest in histories of migration, transnational histories, the history of skilled labour, expatriate British communities, and global history. Payton’s work lies at the intersection of all these and deserves a wide readership.” (Professor Andrew Thompson, Chair of History, University of Exeter)
“Payton is the ultimate collector of Cornish data…”
“Payton’s intimate knowledge of mining lore and technology make him an authoritative guide. He shows the comprehensive transmission of Cornish culture, folkways, language and mining methods to the South Australian tabula rasa in the 1840s.”
“Payton’s fine work…provides a professional, heavily documented narrative of the long exodus from Cornwall and he invests it with spirit and humour… The Cornish Overseas is a splendidly panoramic survey of the global Cornish, and an important addition to emigration and mining history.” (Professor Eric Richards, Emeritus Professor of History, Flinders University of South Australia)
Philip Payton is Emeritus Professor of Cornish & Australian Studies in the University of Exeter and Professor of History at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and the former Director of the Institute of Cornish Studies, University of Exeter. He edited Cornish Studies, published annually from 1993-2013, the only series of publications that seeks to investigate and understand the complex nature of Cornish identity, as well as to discuss its implications for society and governance in contemporary Cornwall.
Payton served in the Royal Navy for thirty years, a dozen as a regular and the remainder as a reservist, retiring in the rank of Commander. He was inter alia Senior Lecturer in the Department of History and International Affairs at the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, 1989-91. Recent books include A.L. Rowse and Cornwall: A Paradoxical Patriot (2005, paperback 2007), Making Moonta: The Invention of Australia’s Little Cornwall (2007), John Betjeman and Cornwall: ‘The Celebrated Cornish Nationalist’ (2010), Regional Australia and the Great War: 'The Boys from Old Kio' (2012) and The Maritime History of Cornwall (2014).