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Migration and the rural labour market : Kent 1841-71.

Wojciechowska-Kibble, Bogusia (1984) Migration and the rural labour market : Kent 1841-71. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94732) (KAR id:94732)


The movement of rural labour and the workings of the rural labour market have all too often been neglected by social historians for the study of the effect of industrialisation on urban society. This thesis aims to not only expand our knowledge of the social history of Kent but also shed light on issues affecting a wider rural society and specifically the migration of rural labour. It is comprised of seven Chapters. The first examines the literature pertaining to demography and rural society. It studies ideas regarding the relationship between economic and demographic change from Maithus to the present day, and traces the evolution of writing on population movement from that of an administrative nature to the more personal approach adopted by Erickson. The Chapter also considers contrasting interpretations of the changes occurring in rural society and in the position of the agricultural labourer.

The second Chapter describes the wide variety of sources used, sets out the methodology of the thesis, and points to the fusion which has been attempted between 'qualitative' and 'quantitative' history. In Chapter 3, the circumstances of the labour force in Kent, a county selected both because of its reputation as a pauperised agricultural area and because of the paucity of its nineteenth century historiography, are analysed. There was a clear coincidence of demographic and economic boundaries, areas most reliant on agriculture exhibiting low population densities and growth rates, and higher losses of population by migration and a greater outlay on poor relief.

However, a sharply focussed case study is one of the most effective ways of examining the relationship between the rural economy and population movements, especially bearing in mind that in nineteenth century rural areas, a great deal of migration took place over relatively short distances. Chapter 4 explores the economic and environmental pressures in the parish of Brenchiey, pointing to the continuing polarisation of the rural social structure 16 and the adverse circumstances of the agricultural labour force, and also explains why Brenchley was selected.

Chapter 5 addresses the relationship between the economic and environmental pressures in Brenchley and the movement of the workforce, as established by census linkage. We argue that an examination of the economic circumstances both at the migrants' place of origin and at their destination is vital to an understanding of population movement, and that the movement is shaped more by occupational characteristics, than by geographical boundaries. In Chapter 6 we extend this analysis to the Kentish-born labour force as a whole, tracing its movement in the other counties of England and Wales and overseas. We further explore the correspondence between the needs of sending and receiving areas, and suggest that the study of the movement of labour should incorporate its local, national and international dimensions, rather than be limited by national boundaries. Finally in Chapter 7 we complement the quantitative approach, common to many studies of population movement, with the reflections of the emigrants themselves. While making no claims for the representativeness of the letter writers, this Chapter on personal perspectives nevertheless balances a study of population movement based on the census and on other official sources.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94732
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Demography & population studies
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 10 Jul 2023 10:29 UTC
Last Modified: 10 Jul 2023 10:29 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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