British Empire
Living in the British empire - migration
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A government notice from 1845 concerning migration to the West Indies
(Catalogue ref: CO 386/155)
  • The main industry in the West Indies was the production of sugar. This required very large numbers of workers. This was why the slave trade became so large in the 1700s.
  • By the time of this source slavery had been abolished, but the West Indies still needed workers. India provided Britain with a huge supply of manpower, both as workers and as soldiers.
  • During the 1800s over 1 million Indians left India to work in the West Indies, South Africa, the Pacific Islands and many parts of the British empire.
  • The emigrants were volunteers, but in many cases they had little choice. Most left India because of extreme poverty or because they were tempted by offers of work and high pay. In many cases, they were not much better off than the slave workers of the 1700s.
  • Despite this, Indian workers prospered in many parts of the world and this is why many countries have thriving Indian communities today.
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