History - Changing Life in Scotland and Britain

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Population and Migration


Population - this means the number of people living in the country.
Migration - this means how people moved around as time went on.

The population of Scotland was 2.3 million in 1831, 4.5 million by 1901 and 4.8 million by 1931.
The population of Great Britain as a whole was 16.2 million in 1831, 37 million by 1901 and 45 million by 1931.

The Main Reasons for Population Change

The main reasons for the increase in population between 1831 and 1931 are shown below:
1. A rise in the number of people being born (birth rate):

  • People began marrying younger and so had larger families.
  • Food became more plentiful and varied so people were healthier 
    and stronger.

Improvements in the conditions of towns (housing and hygiene) and better medicines meant that more children survived and grew up to have families of their own.

2. People were living longer (higher life expectancy):
As the life expectancy increased, people started to have smaller families in the towns as laws prevented children working, and having fewer children allowed a better standard of living for families. This meant that the increase in population slowed down. 

3. Increasing Immigration:

There was increasing immigration from the middle of the 1800s, especially from Ireland.
The rising population was partly caused by and led to migration. There was emigration from Scotland because of events such as the Highland Clearances. There was immigration, particularly from Ireland following the Great Famine.

Irish Immigration

From the 1840s hundreds of thousands of Irish people fled famine, hunger and unemployment. Tens of thousands of them came to Britain, and especially to Scotland, leading to the rapid growth of cities such as Glasgow and Dundee.

  • The failure of the potato crop in Ireland from 1845-50 had a devastating effect on the population as the depended on potatoes to live. Hundreds of thousands of people died, and in the years after, many of those who could left the country.
  • At its peak in the mid-1800s the Irish-born population of Scotland was around 7 %, about twice the percentage of the Irish population in England.
  • The majority settled in the West of Scotland, Ayrshire, Renfrew, Dumbarton and Lanark, but some also settled in the East in Dundee, Edinburgh and Leith.
  • The irish often took unskilled jobs, such as labouring, harvesting and factory work, undercutting the wages of the native Scottish population. This caused some resentment.

The majority of Irish immigrants were Catholic, leading to conflict with the local Protestant population, which increased further when Protestant Irish immigrants also arrived in Glasgow.

Question related to "Population and Migration"

1. By how much did the population of Britain grow between 1831 and 1931?
A: 82.8 million.

2. Why did people getting married earlier lead to a higher population?
A: As they could have more children.

3. Give three other reasons why the population grew.
A: Immigration (ireland), higher life expectancy and improvements in the conditions of towns etc.

The Highland Clearances

Throughout the


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