Thursday, February 08, 2007

Fishing for Men

Steven Rigden spotted a peculiar "fishing fleet" while browsing the UK outbound passenger lists at

Reading down the list of names, past Mrs Wright, Mrs Simpson, the infant and ayah (Indian nanny), you come to Miss Max, Miss Cowell, Miss Blyth, Miss Graham… a long sequence of unmarried women, down to Miss Sandys and Miss Good. This is the suspected “[fishing] fleet”: marriageable young women sailing out to India in search of eligible bachelors, preferably the so-called “heaven-born” serving in the Indian Civil Service or officers in the Army. The fleet sailed out from Britain in the autumn or early winter and spent the next few cooler Indian months socialising at the British clubs and angling for a groom.
Unsuccessful women - the “returned empties” - re-embarked for Britain in the spring. [Link]
By the way, passenger lists from 1890 through 1909 are now available.

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