With these reservations I shall state boldly that I believe the main causes to be two, of which the one may be termed sentimental, the other economic.
- Whatever poets may have said of the pleasures of the country, whatever country squires may say in praise of turf or turnips, burn or moor, with whatever glee the jaded merchant or banker may rush off to the woods of Surrey or the dales of Cumberland, there can I think be no manner of doubt about the feelings of the great mass of the population. To them the country does not suggest pleasure, but the lack of it. The dream of the countryman is to get away from the country, just as it is the dream of many townsmen to get away from the town. Change naturally enough is attractive to us all, but whereas it is almost the rule for the rustic to wish to go to a town, it is comparatively exceptional for the townsman to wish to leave one. I believe this, which I have called the sentimental cause, to lie at the very root of the matter, but it is, all said and done, of the nature of what medical men term predisposing causes; we have now to consider the existing cause.
- This, which I believe will be found in some form or another to underlie those various contributory causes – which, in one case and another, may be so much more in evidence as to seem at ﬁrst sight to be the chief cause – has many forms, and acts in many ways. It may be summed up in the phrase improved communications. See what this implies. In the ﬁrst place, the man who wants to go ﬁnds the means of transit. In the last century locomotion was slow, inconvenient, and expensive. It is now rapid, handy, and cheap. Improved communications include cheap postage and cheap telegraphs, which render possible a cheap press. These in their turn have had much to do with the spread of education. The press and the post put the village in communication with the town, the factory, the mine, the colonies. Men learn where there is a demand for labour, and are directed to it. Improved communications lead to the centralisation of industry; this in its turn lessens the demand for artisans in the country, while it increases the demand for them in the towns.
(G.B. Longstaff, ‘Rural depopulation’, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society, 1893, pp. 413–14 [Tip: daliwch Ctrl a chliciwch dolen i'w agor mewn tab newydd. (Cuddio tip)] )