Sean’s Ships

How do ships work and why are there so many routes? Sean's exploring the history and science behind ships and international trade!

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Sean’s Ships: Migration

From the first European settlers in Australia to holidays overseas - ships have changed the world.

In Sean’s Ships: Bringing the World Together, Sean and Robot are on a mission to sell custard creams across the world and with the help of the Captain, have been learning all about ships and world trade.

In this series of Sean’s Ships we’ve been learning all about international trade – that’s the way different countries exchange stuff.  A bit like the way you might trade things with friends in Minecraft.

In this episode we learn about how ships have been used in the past to get from one country to another, and how this changed the world.

Most people today will travel by ships to go on holiday – on a ferry to get across to Europe or a cruise around a new part of the world. In the olden days, and before the development of jet planes, people would sail for weeks on end to get to faraway places like Australia. 


Human migration is the movement of people from one place to another, sometimes to escape danger or to set up new homes, raise their families and start a new life. It’s something that’s been going on – well, for as long as there have been people!

grayscale photo of desk globe

For thousands of years, the population of Britain was small. Then a series of invasions brought others to our shores.  The Romans came by boat and settled here over 2,000 years ago. Later came Vikings from Scandinavia arrived on longboats – and as it became easier to travel, others came from Germany – these were to become Anglo Saxons who many people think of as being the earliest Britons. As international trade between countries grew from the 1600s, people came to Britain from Africa and the Indian subcontinent – often as servants, slaves or workers on ships. In time, when slavery was abolished, many would stay and build free lives here.

How people from Britain sailed to Australia

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Britain’s colonies grew and spread all over the world to places including America and Australia. 

In 1787 a group of 11 ships known at the First Fleet set sail to Australia. The people onboard are going to be amongst the first to colonise Australia. Amongst them were convicts who have been given the right to work their way to freedom. 

The First Fleet entering Port Jackson, January 26, 1788, drawn 1888  A9333001h - PICRYL Public Domain Search

It wasn’t all plain sailing though. The Aboriginal people who have lived in Australia for thousands of years, were wary of the new people who arrived.

Unfortunately, this happened with a lot of migration to places like Australia and America. Our world would be completely different if people hadn’t migrated all those years ago. Migration continues to this day – from people in the Caribbean who came to Britain in the 1950s to those seeking refuge from war.  People travel by sea for many other reasons – to visit family, for work, or for pleasure.  

Over 40 million passenger journeys are made to and from the UK every year by sea, using cruise ships and ferries from mainland Europe as well as shorter domestic routes – like Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight.

Sean’s Ships – Bringing the World Together. With support from Lloyd’s Register Foundation.

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Sean’s Ships

How do ships work and why are there so many routes? Sean's exploring the history and science behind ships and international trade!

More From Sean’s Ships