Migration – 16th, 17th and 18th centuries

A timeline showing key events in migration from 1500-1700 African and Asian immigration to Britain begins to 1770s Puritans influence the founding of the USA

Throughout the 16th and 17th centuries, the age of exploration and sea travel opened up new lands for discovery, trade and conquest, and this increased the migration of people to and from Britain.

Religious differences forced some groups, such as the French Protestant Huguenots, to flee persecution and immigrate to Britain. More than 50,000 Huguenot immigrants settled in places like Spitalfields in London’s East End, and Fleur De Lys in south Wales, and they were allowed citizenship under the 1708 Foreign Protestants Naturalisation Act. They have been called ‘Britain’s first refugees’.

Other immigrants settled at this time. The slave trade brought black Africans to live and work in the UK, especially in London, and in the 17th century the East India Company brought Indian sailors called lascars to work on their ships. Thousands settled in port towns.

As well as immigration there was emigration. The search for religious and political freedom forced the Puritan Pilgrim Fathers to leave Plymouth for America in 1620.

Puritans continued to settle in the American colonies, and in the 1680s, another persecuted religious group, the Quakers, followed them there. Their leader William Penn helped found Pennsylvania in 1681 and Philadelphia in 1682. Puritans had a big influence on the establishment of the USA in the 1770s.