200,000 people inhabited the British colonies in North America. The following
century saw an explosion in numbers with the population doubling about every
25 years. The majority of these new immigrants were Scotch-Irish, Germans or
African slaves. Between 1700 and the beginning of the American Revolution, approximately
250,000 Africans, 210,000 Europeans and 50,000 convicts had reached the colonial
The passage to America was treacherous by any standard. Many of the immigrants were too poor to pay for the journey and therefore indentured themselves to wealthier colonialists – selling their services for a period of years in return for the price of the passage. Crammed into a small wooden ship, rolling and rocking at the mercy of the sea, the voyagers – men, women and children – endured hardships unimaginable to us today. Misery was the most common description of a journey that typically lasted seven weeks.