Labour emigrants in the nineteenth century had ever-increasing access to a global employment market. Many of those who left Great Britain looked beyond Europe, to the British Empire and the United States. They took advantage of improvements in transportation, and followed a wide variety of occupations. Decisions to emigrate were often shaped by their involvement in trade unions and were based on concerns about living standards and working conditions. This study considers a selection of globetrotting British settlers and sojourners who went to Canada, the United States and Australia between 1815 and the 1880s. The article analyses the historiography of labour migration; carries out an empirical study constructed around four pieces of analytical scaffolding; and closes by identifying recurring threads in the multi-hued tapestry of labour emigration, highlighting how concerns and traditions about recruitment, wages and working conditions, which had emerged in the nineteenth century, created legacies that persisted into the period after the First World War.