From the early nineteenth century onwards, millions of people left their homes to cross the seas. Some, like the convicts transported from England to Australia, had no choice; others like the indentured Indian and Chinese laborers had almost no alternative; but the vast majority of emigrants were driven to escape war, famine or grinding poverty. Whatever their circumstances and wherever their destination, the one experience they all shared in common was the sea voyage.
This history traces the story of the emigrant, from the decision to emigrate, to the journey to the port and the voyage itself, to arrival in the new world. It describes the differing conditions on board sailing ships and steamers, convict and coolie ships, and the perils of overcrowding, epidemics, fire, shipwreck and even cannibalism. It also investigates the varied receptions emigrants were likely to face.