The Migrants View:
The Irvine/Rose Network and the Scots Diaspora in the Atlantic World, c. 1700-1800.
In the early 1730s, Charles Irvine, a Scotsman, joined the Swedish East India Company and became involved in Sweden's efforts to join the race for riches in the Far East. Soon this younger son of a Scots laird found himself sailing for China to make his fortune. Other Scots also served in the company's ranks, mainly in its upper echelons, supplying expertise and élan to this Scandinavian late-comer to the game of state-sponsored commerce. What makes Irvine unusual is the documentation of his life and his personal network that has survived. This project is is a reconstruction of the lives and worldviews of Charles Irvine and his circle as a means to understanding the interconnected stories of migration and cultural change in the early modern world.
Understanding migration's cultural dimensions is at the heart of this project. The project builds on the past two decades of historical research on migration, which has demonstrated the increasingly global context of European (and non-European) migration in the eighteenth century. For while much has certainly been done in the area of migration, establishing its cultural impact has proved more difficult. This is where this project will make its contribution to current scholarship.
Because Charles Irvine's personal/professional network was in many ways a microcosm of European society, it enables us to understand how a cross-section of Europeans participated in, thought about, and experienced the processes of global migration. Thus, rather than viewing migration primarily as the summed actions of governments, institutions, or migrating (and indigenous) groups, I propose to look at it in terms of everyday life in order to comprehend the larger processes through individual experiences.
of Irvine's network encompassed a group of Scots families whose members
lived and worked in Europe, Asia, North America and the Caribbean. At
is furthest extent, it crossed national and cultural boundaries in
Europe and far beyond. Nor is this a case of looking only at those at
the top of European society. Certainly Irvine and many of his merchant
friends were were tied to landowning families. Irvines older
was the laird of Drum and his family was prominent in Aberdeenshire and
Nairnshire, counties hugging the coast of northeastern Scotland. These
men were nevertheless part of Europes working middle class.
the network were even more clearly stamped as such. As doctors and
solicitors they counted themselves among Europes professional
just as many if not more were shipwrights, ships carpenters,
journeymen sailors, and others who had no chance of rising to (or
maintaining) a higher status. The same range of social class is evident
in those members of Irvine's network who are not Scots.
Migration and the History of Mentalities.
One of the major objectives of this study is to push the boundaries of current historical conceptions of migration in the early modern period by probing the mentalities of early modern migrants. Historians of migration often classify and categorize migrants according to their intentions, the distance they travel, and the frequency of their migrations. Instead of trying to classify the members of Charles Irvine's circle, though, I plan to explore the range of life strategies they pursued and examine how they thought about those strategies and migration's place in them. For Irvine and many other Scots, migration was a way to further one's chances and make one's fortune. His chief correspondent in London, George Ouchterlony, thought of it in terms of ambition. Those who were ambitious (Ouchterlony claimed not to be) and seeking to rise, would migrate and those who were not, like himself, would choose not to. Others may not have seen the world the way George Ouchterlony did. I would suggest, however, that like Ouchterlony they did possess a similarly flexible conception of migration and its place in their lives. It is these broader conceptions or mentalities that I would like to capture by focusing on the life strategies of this group of individuals.
attention to the mentalities that informed decisions to migrate (or not
to migrate) I hope to show specific interconnections between different
patterns of migration, such as the sojourner model and that of more
more permanent out-migration. By looking at how these various migration
strategies inter-relate I also hope to gain an understanding of the
place of global migration within European culture that includes the
impact of non-European cultures, an often neglected dimension of the
migration story. Finally, this approach will ideally offer new
interpretations of the place of the migration narrative in the lives of
early modern Europeans and add to the growing literature on the
anthropology of migration.
The Scots and Communities of Migration in the Early Modern World.
To link individual lives more surely to the larger concerns of migration's cultural impact, I am looking comparatively at the effects migration had on a broad spectrum of communities and senses of community. In the spirit of recent work on the Atlantic world and the Indian Ocean trading zone, I plan to explore the connections of Irvine and his circle to the communities and concepts of community with which they engaged.
Broadly speaking there were four kinds of community in the world of Charles Irvine. The most prominent among these various communities from the standpoint of scholarly work are the nation and the ethnic group. At a completely different level, historians have also examined migration's influence on individual communities: cities, towns, villages and even larger collectivities like colonies or regions. A cross between these previous two communities, the ethnic enclave, has also been important in the historiography of early modern migration. Finally, a fourth kind of community has also featured in the world of the migrant, although scholars have not always recognized it as a community: trading companies like the Swedish, Dutch, and English East India Companies. These companies were much more than political and economic extensions of the states that sponsored them, as recent work on their cultural impact has shown.
Because Scots commonly went abroad as part of their life strategies, their engagement with the various communities I mentioned earlier in this section was regular and often very intensive. Fortunately, the breadth of Irvine's network allows me to look at migration's relationships to each of the kinds of community mentioned above through the life stories of the individuals involved. Consequently, the relationship of Irvine and everyone in his personal network to the kinds of community that surrounded them will come in for careful scrutiny. I am also interested in relating the different kinds of community to one another.
The extent to which the design of this study makes such comparisons possible is one of its great strengths. While scholars have considered the roles played by various types of community in migration, they have shown less interest in interconnecting them. By looking at such inter-relationships this study sheds new light on the relationships between the European metropol and the increasing number of non-European communities connected to it. This comparative perspective can also draw out the relative importance of different kinds of community to migrants and to migration and put them more fundamentally in the narrative of migration. Lastly, the study shows more clearly the role in early modern migration of perennial cultural interlopers like the Scots, a phenomenon whose impact remains as yet unresolved.
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