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A displaced Britishness: Welsh Patagonians in Canada and Australia

posted on 2004-01-01, 00:00 authored by Michele Langfield
This paper focuses on a unique group of British emigrants in their double migration experience from Wales to Patagonia in the second half of the nineteenth century and thence to Canada or Australia in the early twentieth. The history of the Welsh Patagonian settlements in the Chubut Valley of Argentina and the Andes foothills has been extensively documented. Less is known about the two subsequent migrations from Patagonia to Canada in 1902, and from Patagonia to Australia between 1910 and 1915. What distinguishes these movements is that, in each case, the settlers migrated as a group and placed a high priority on taking up adjoining land. In their three adopted countries they established discrete Welsh communities, some more enduring than others.

There is a general consensus that the initial move from Wales to Patagonia in 1865 was for nationalistic, cultural and linguistic reasons but for those who followed later, economic motives were more common. By the time of the migration from Patagonia to Canada in 1902, there was no illusion that Welsh nationalism could be preserved intact or autonomy guaranteed. Historians dispute the primary motivation for this particular move, some arguing that socio-economic and political factors in Patagonia were paramount, others that it resulted from inducements and political manoeuvrings from Canada and Great Britain. What is clear is the desire of the settlers to return to a country 'under a British flag'.

This paper addresses these issues relating to the Welsh Patagonian migration to Canada in the context of a comparison with the migration to Australia some years later. Such a comparative analysis has not previously been undertaken. Notions of identity and an erstwhile ‘Britishness’ are explored, in terms of the migrant’s sense of self and the political implications of citizenship, military service, reception and assimilation in the
host societies.


Title of book

Exploring the British world

Chapter number



161 - 191


RMIT Publishing

Place of publication

Melbourne, Vic.







Publication classification

B1 Book chapter; B Book chapter

Copyright notice

2008, RMIT Publishing




K Darian-Smith, P Grimshaw, K Lindsey, S Mcintyre

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