In the period 1830 to 1914 more than 37 million emigrated from their European homes to seek freedom and opportunity all over the world. Over 3 million migrated through the Humber (2.2 million through Hull and 800,000 through Grimsby). Rob Bell was drawn to the parallels with our own time when the migrant tale has become a huge controversy with people like Vinnie Jones, the self-styled football hardman now actor pontificating from “expat” exile in LA that the UK is full of immigrants – without seeing the irony in his stance. Migrants have played a hugely important role in the British Isles and today, with over 1.7 million immigrants residing in the UK over 1.5 million UK passport holders live across Europe. Back in WW1 millions of colonial subjects gave their life for European powers and these tales explore the ironies and the facts in a fresh and challenging way.
Take Hull. Founded as a port it is used to people passing through and some staying. In 1800 the population was about 25,000 but by 1900 had climbed to 200,000. Even the fishing industry was founded by immigrants from Devon and Cornwall bringing their boats and expertise to exploit the silver pit out in the Dogger Bank with women moving down from Aberdeen with the shoals. Then, there were the migrant workers who moved north with the harvest or the navvies who came to dig the docks and build the railway links to the national network.
Rob Bell has written a trilogy to explore this hugely complex and all too often hidden history:
Hull is a terrific source of detail on the migrant tale and our research is developing the tale beyond to New York; Rosario; Sao Paulo; the Cape; Madras; Australia and New Zealand. Then, we are exploring more detail on origins and reasons for leaving.