Evidence from a variety of sources suggests that in the pre-industrial period, the population of England was highly mobile, often over short distances. Much of this movement was in-migration to towns and was fundamental in engineering sustained population growth and the supply of labour necessary to maintain the manufacturing, trading, and service sectors of the early urbanizing economies.
This chapter seeks to give a flavour of the potential for multiple source analysis when exploring migration issues. It draws upon the findings of a recent research project seeking to explore ‘The Liverpool Community and Urban Growth, 1660–1750’. That investigation employed multiple record linkage to construct detailed biographies of individual townsfolk and to reconstruct their associations within the widest social and occupational base. Set against the findings of aggregate studies of Liverpool to date, four detailed case histories will be presented to demonstrate migration and mobility characteristics at the experience level of the individual, and of the individual's interaction and connectivity with others.
At the Restoration, it has been estimated that Liverpool had little more than 1,500 inhabitants. By the end of the seventeenth century, the population total had risen to approximately 5,000–5,500 and was to almost double in the first 20 years of the eighteenth century, and double again to reach 20–22,000 by the late 1750s.
Analysis of parish register totals of baptisms and burials reveals that natural increase throughout the period was often slight, and between the mid-1720s and mid- 1740s almost negligible. Indeed, the cumulative surplus of baptisms over burials between 1660 and 1760 amounted to slightly less than 5,500. In the same period, gross population expansion was of the order of 24,500, suggesting that barely 22 per cent of Liverpool's growth could be attributed to natural increase. The shortfall, almost an incredible 80 per cent, must have been supplied from elsewhere. Indeed, net migration into the town continued to account for well above 70 per cent of population increase until the final decade of the eighteenth century.