Migration to London and the development of the north–south divide, 1851–1911

Kevin Schurer*, Joseph Day

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This article uses census data for England and Wales covering the period 1851–1911 to provide new insights into patterns of migration to London. It examines several related themes including the role migration played in London’s growth during this period, age and gender differentials and distance travelled. Calculating net migration rates, the article demonstrates that after age 30, of those born outside of London, more left the Capital than came, yet over time an increasing proportion of the migrant population was retained. The proportion of family migrants fluctuated over the period, yet compared to others tended to travel shorter distances, a feature which increased over time with suburbanization. Turning to the geographical origins of migrants, London drew migrants from across the entirety of England and Wales. However, the data suggest that the migrant sex ratio became more homogeneous over time, with distinct pockets of male dominated migration that were visible in 1851 disappearing by 1911. Lastly, the article investigates migration from the perspective of place of departure rather than destination, as is traditionally the case. This reveals a distinct regional geography, suggesting that the present-day north–south divide was already evident in 1851, and became increasingly distinct over time.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-56
Number of pages31
JournalSocial History
Issue number1
Early online date4 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 4 Feb 2019


  • London
  • Migration
  • North–south divide
  • Nineteenth century
  • Regionalism
  • Mobility
  • Urban growth


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