Dr. Steven J. Taylor

Dr. Steven J. Taylor

Between the years 1870-1925 somewhere in the region of 80,000-100,000 poor and orphaned children
were sent unaccompanied from Britain to start new lives with farming families in the Canadian
countryside. Dr. Taylor’s research explores the lived experience of these child migrants and attempts
with his grant money to reveal pathways into their adulthood over the life-cycle and into the twentieth
century.
Child migration was officially framed as an attempt to rescue children at risk from degrading and
dangerous urban surroundings in late-nineteenth- century Britain; however, the motives of such
programmes also stemmed from a desire to populate and settle the ‘British world’ and provide much
needed labour for Canadian farms. With the help of funding from the Canada – UK Foundation Dr.
Taylor was able to use personal correspondence to reconstruct the narratives of two child emigrants as
they transitioned from existence at the margins of English society to new lives at the margins of
empire in rural Canada.
The two English children in question had differing experiences of the migration process. Research of
this nature is complex and time-consuming but the outcomes help to develop a more nuanced
understanding of the experiences and life outcomes for those labelled as ‘home children’. Too often it
has been simply assumed that in Canada they were marginalised, just like in their previous lives in
England, but detailed research in fact reveals a spectrum of experience for these individuals.