Migration to New Worlds

Discover the motives, aspirations, realities and personal hardships for European and Asian migrants during two centuries of global migration.

Set against a backdrop of colonial expansion, industrial progress and global conflict; Migration to New Worlds tells the stories of individuals and families who risked everything to build new lives in North America and Australasia between 1800 and 1980.

Unique primary source diaries, correspondence, photographs, oral histories and journals narrate the vivid realities of ocean travel and life in adopted homelands. Organisational correspondence, government proceedings, shipping company papers and records of advocacy groups provide key context to migrants’ everyday struggles.

Grouped by key themes for ease of navigation, this essential multi-archive collection allows students and researchers to conduct in-depth study into all aspects of migration through the ‘century of immigration’ and into the modern era.

Key Data


  • Module I, The Century of Immigration: Documenting the period from 1800 to 1924, this module focuses on the British colonisation of Canada during the early nineteenth century, Chinese and Japanese immigration to the United States and the movement of indentured Asian labourers to plantations in the West Indies.

  • Module II, The Modern Era: Beginning with the activities of the New Zealand Company during the 1840s, this module focuses on the growth of colonisation companies, activities of immigration and welfare societies, and the plight of refugees and displaced persons after the Second World War.

Period Covered

  • 1800-1980


  • Rare printed books, pamphlets and correspondence on Chinese and Japanese immigration to the United States.
  • Convict shipping logs to Australia during the 1850s.
  • Oral Histories of life on the Lower East Side, New York in the early twentieth century.
  • Government correspondence from the National Archives, UK charting British immigration to the United States, Australasia and Canada and the movement of indentured Asian labourers.
  • Full-seized rigging, deck and cabin plans for emigrant ships.

Source Archives

  • American Antiquarian Society
  • Briscoe Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
  • British Library
  • California Historical Society
  • Cambridge University Library
  • Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21
  • Glenbow Museum
  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • Immigration History Research Center Archives, University of Minnesota Libraries
  • Library and Archives Canada
  • Liverpool Record Office
  • Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • Maritime Museum of Tasmania
  • Museums Victoria, Australia
  • National Archives of Australia
  • National Library of Ireland
  • National Museums Liverpool: Maritime Archives & Library
  • Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp
  • Senate House Library, University of London
  • Special Collections & University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • Tenement Museum, New York
  • The National Archives, UK
  • The Newberry Library
  • The Robert Opie Collection
  • University of Melbourne Archives
  • University of Sussex

Material Types

  • Personal accounts
  • Oral histories discussing the experiences of migrants
  • Correspondence describing early emigration experiences
  • Shipping papers and logbooks
  • Ship plans of various vessels
  • Reports and press releases from organisations aiding migrants during the twentieth century
  • Rare printed books
  • Leaflets and pamphlets
  • Scrapbooks
  • Postcards, posters and ephemera from prominent shipping lines
  • Legal papers
  • Photographs
  • Objects belonging to migrant families
  • Maps of newly colonised territory in Canada, Australia and New Zealand
  • Nineteenth-century watercolours of Liverpool

Editorial Board

  • John Belchem, University of Liverpool
  • David Fitzpatrick, Trinity College Dublin
  • Anthony James Hammerton, La Trobe University
  • Rona Hollingsworth, Maritime Museum of Tasmania
  • James C. Kearney, University of Texas at Austin
  • Roger Kershaw, The National Archives, UK
  • Alan Kraut, American University
  • Marie-Charlotte Le Bailly, Red Star Line Museum, Antwerp
  • Andrew Linn, University of Westminster
  • Moya McFadzean, Museums Victoria
  • Paul Milner, Federation of Genealogical Societies
  • Jock Phillips, Former Chief Historian for New Zealand
  • Matteo Pretelli, University of Warwick
  • Kevin Sheehan, Maritime Museum of San Diego
  • Jacob L. Vigdor, University of Washington
  • William Van Vugt, Calvin College


  • Colonisation and private enterprise
  • Shipping line involvement with the emigration boom
  • Conditions at sea
  • Opportunities for (and exploitation of immigrants)
  • Experiences of refugees and displaced persons
  • The effects of government legislation on migration
  • Reactions to immigration from local and indigenous populations
  • The employment and repatriation of Indian and Chinese indentured labourers
  • Religious, ethnic and community relations
  • Onward journeys and the challenges of settlement
  • Motives for migration
  • How emigration ports were organised and departures arranged

Key Features

  • Analyse records for over 16,000 British and Irish convicts transported to New South Wales between 1785-1820.
  • Discover how migration to the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand changed over time using the interactive migration map.
  • Tour two New York Tenement Museum apartments
  • Explore a Victorian emigrant ship through the Star of India interactive deck plans
  • Learn about the importance of Grosse Île quarantine island to Canada’s immigration story.
  • Photographic walkthroughs
  • Contextual essays
  • Visual galleries
  • Online exhibitions
  • Oral histories