University of Leicester
2022HardiSPhD.pdf (14.53 MB)

A study of the civil parish of Meare in the Poor Law Union of Wells in the County of Somerset with emphasis on the forces leading to decisions to either stay or to migrate from the parish in the period 1851 to 1891

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posted on 2022-09-09, 09:45 authored by Stanley Ernest Hardie

This thesis explores various factors which may have influenced migration decisions and the outcomes of those decisions of the villagers of Meare in the County of Somerset in the second half of the nineteenth century.

Unlike many rural communities the population of Meare was still growing in the 1850s and 1860s, peaking in 1871, but then joined the general rural experience of a declining population. The village was affected by various factors – geographical, societal, agricultural, transport – which impacted on the population, and each of these are explored in a total history approach. It is a micro-history of a small population but this approach enables national trends to be illuminated and challenged.

The various national censuses of the period provide the basic building blocks, enabling individuals, families and occupational groups to be studied. The parish and other local records add to the census records, as do newspaper, national and local, and other archives. These are used to build a picture of the village and the constraints and choices available to the various groups who made up the village population – the landowners, professional classes, farmers, tradespeople, manual workers and the largest group, the agricultural labourers. Two groups of people are specifically examined, the mothers of illegitimate children and their children, and those who found themselves in need of parish assistance or in the workhouse.

Having studied the ‘push’ factors, attention then turns to the outcomes, first by reviewing Meare in 1891, and then the ‘pull’ factors are considered through the actual migration moves of those individuals it has been possible to trace. The overall conclusion is that despite a decline in population the village retained an underlying stability, but also that migration followed well-trodden paths to industrial and urban areas and overseas. Whereas overseas emigration declined in popularity over the period internal migration grew.



Steven King; Julia Laite

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of History, Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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