Immigration to Scotland, 1830s-1939

Immigration to Scotland, 1830s-1939

Irish Immigration (mid-19th Century)

  • Mass immigration from Ireland took place due to the Irish Potato Famine (1845-1852).
  • Many Irish emigrants settled in the industrial urban areas of Scotland, particularly Glasgow.
  • The Irish population worked mostly in low-skilled jobs, such as dock work and coal mining.
  • They faced discrimination and prejudice due to cultural, religious, and socio-economic differences.

Jewish Immigration (late-19th to early-20th Century)

  • Jewish immigrants sought refuge in Scotland, fleeing pogroms and antisemitism in Eastern Europe.
  • Jewish immigrants mostly settled in cities like Glasgow and Edinburgh and worked in trade occupations such as cabinet making and tailoring.
  • A large and vibrant Jewish community was established in Gorbals, Glasgow, known as ‘Little Jerusalem’.

Italian Immigration (late-19th to early-20th Century)

  • Italian immigrants arrived in Scotland seeking better opportunities, with a major influx following Italy’s unification in 1861.
  • They often settled in urban areas including Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Dundee.
  • Italians established successful businesses, especially in confectionery and catering, with ice cream cafés becoming a popular cultural symbol.

Highland and Island Emigration

  • The Highland Clearances of the late 18th and 19th centuries dispossessed many Gaelic-speaking inhabitants who ended up in the industrialised Lowlands or emigrated overseas.
  • Economic pressures and land issues led many from the Highlands and Islands, including Orkney and Shetland, to emigrate to countries such as Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Reasons for Immigration

  • Economic opportunities: Many arrivals were attracted by Scotland’s industrialisation and urbanisation.
  • Avoiding hardship: Fleeing from poverty, famine, or persecution in their home countries.
  • Chain migration: Early immigrants often paved the way for family and community members to follow.

Impacts of Immigration

  • Cultural influence: Immigrants significantly impacted the cultural and social landscape of Scotland, forming communities, establishing places of worship, and contributing to food culture.
  • Labour market: They provided a much-needed labour force during Scotland’s Industrial Revolution.
  • Tension and xenophobia: Immigration often led to tensions within the existing communities who viewed newcomers as competition for jobs, leading to hostility and prejudice.