There are some familiar figures, like the poet Anne Bradstreet, or John Rolfe (eventual husband to Pocahontas), and there are others of the kind history tends to forget, like the indentured servants Edward and Anne Furnifull. It is an ideal mode for this kind of history, especially given Evans’s way with a character portrait. As I said, we are talking about human motives. Times have changed, but I couldn’t help wishing that the International Passenger Survey had space for the categories of emigrant outlined by Evans’ chapters: “Fish”, “Gold and Smoke”. “Equality before God”, “King”, “Fur”, “Liberty”, “Despair”.
As readers of Evans’s Merchant Adventurers (2013) will expect, the result is brisk, informative, and (though it does not necessarily break much fresh ground for those familiar with the period) eye-opening, too. Though there are inevitable quibbles over emphasis – Evans is, for my money, a little coy about the utter destructiveness of native-settler relations – Emigrants is a fascinating book that gives real insight into the age that birthed the modern West.