"Interviewees’ testimonies bring historical interpretations to life. Recorded life stories are intensely private, often funny, and occasionally heartbreaking. Many of the English-born immigrant interviewees with whom we spent time talked frankly about their fears, expectations, and family separation anxieties." Author Murray Watson looks at some of the rich data—and some of the surprises!—that social historians can unearth when they ask people to tell their own story.
‘One of the great untold stories of the post-World War II years was the exodus of young British emigrants. Such was the scale of population loss that wartime leader Winston Churchill appealed to those wishing to depart Blighty’s war-torn shores “to stay here and fight it out”. And, in a fit of pique according to reports in the Daily Express, Churchill accused these expats of being ‘rats leaving a sinking ship”.’ Murray Watson reflects on some of the reasons why so many Britons chose to leave the victorious UK.
"More than 100 years earlier, emigrants were all but cut off from home. Outward journeys lasted weeks or months on sailing ships rather than a few hours aboard a jet plane. Returning home was a rarity and upon departure many emigrants were convinced they would never see their place of birth or extended family again." Things have certainly changed for the modern expat when it comes to keeping in touch—and more!—as Murray Watson explains.
"I remember not being able to sleep well for days when I arrived in the West Indies. It was not the suffocating heat but the unexpected and scary sight of lizards chasing fireflies across the bedroom ceiling. I was also kept awake by thinking about the tarantula I saw scurrying over the garage floor before I came to bed and there was the incessant noise of frogs, cicadas and packs of barking stray dogs chasing bitches on heat. No guide book had prepared me for that." Murray Watson reckons that no matter how much research they do, prospective expats are always going to be surprised by something in their new home…