Modelling regional imbalances in English plebeian migration to late eighteenth-century London
Using a substantial set of vagrancy removal records for Middlesex (1777–86) giving details of the place of origin of some 11,500 individuals, and analysing these records using a five-variable gravity model of migration, this article addresses a simple question: from which parts of England did London draw its lower-class migrants in the late eighteenth century? It concludes, first, that industrializing areas of the north emerged as a competitor for potential migrants—contributing relatively fewer migrants than predicted by the model. Rising wage rates in these areas appear to explain this phenomenon. Second, it argues that migration from urban centres in the west midlands and parts of the West Country, including Bristol, Birmingham, and Worcester, was substantially higher than predicted, and that this is largely explained by falling wage rates and the evolution of an increasingly efficient travel network. Third, for the counties within about 130 kilometres of the capital, this article suggests that migration followed the pattern described in the current literature, with London drawing large numbers of local women in particular. It also argues that these short-distance migrants came from a uniquely wide number of parishes, suggesting a direct rural-to-urban path.