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I came across this term while reading a passage. Hers is a short extract from it:

Bernard Bailyn has recently reinterpreted the early history of the United States by applying new social research findings on the experiences of European migrants. In his reinterpretation, migration becomes the organizing principle for rewriting the history of preindustrial North America. His approach rests on four separate propositions.

The first of these asserts that residents of early modern England moved regularly about their countryside; migrating to the New World was simply a “natural spillover.” Although at first the colonies held little positive attraction for the English—they would rather have stayed home—by the eighteenth century people increasingly migrated to America because they regarded it as the land of opportunity. Secondly, Bailyn holds that, contrary to the notion that used to flourish in America history textbooks, there was never a typical New World community. For example, the economic and demographic character of early New England towns varied considerably.

  1. What is the meaning of the term "natural spillover" as used in the sentence? From my understanding, it can either be related to expansion or it can be related to expenditure (As the last line relates to economy)
  2. from the second paragraph i could understand that the ''New world' refers to north america's community? Is this correct?
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closed as general reference by FumbleFingers, StoneyB, coleopterist, RegDwigнt Sep 20 '12 at 14:00

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Please look up "New World" and "spillover" in a dictionary and elaborate, if necessary, on what about their definitions is confusing you. –  coleopterist Sep 19 '12 at 20:28
Vote to close as General Reference. The actual passage where Bailyn uses this phrase is readily available here, with several pages before which make entirely clear what he means. –  StoneyB Sep 19 '12 at 23:24

1 Answer 1

up vote 2 down vote accepted
  1. The word "spillover" means a side effect, an extra or unplanned or unintentional result. So the writer is saying that as the people got used to travelling about within the confines of the English island, it was a reasonable side effect that they would go the additional step of travelling to places outside England. The word is not specifically related to expansion or economics. You could say, for example, "A spillover of my frequent trips to the zoo was a desire to acquire pets."

  2. "New World" means the western hemisphere, i.e. the Americas, as opposed to the "Old World" of the eastern hemisphere.

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Hmm. I think your definition of "spillover" more properly applies to "spinoff". OP's citation alludes to the literal sense of "spilling over" because a substantial portion of the population were in constant motion anyway - including sailing about within the British Isles. Some of them were bound to sail [a bit] further. –  FumbleFingers Sep 19 '12 at 20:43
They have similar definitions. But according to, for example the American Heritage Dictionary: "spill·o·ver (n.) ... 3. A side effect arising from or as if from an unpredicted source: Late trains were a spillover of increased ridership." In this case, if the writer said people moved to America because there was no room left in England, that might be a more-nearly-literal metaphor. But that isn't what he said. He said that they were used to travelling around, and so a longer trip was just a small extra step. That's more like the definition I just cited. –  Jay Sep 20 '12 at 14:01
Good point. I must admit I'm just not used to hearing spillover used in this way (perhaps it's mainly a US usage?). I normally understand metaphorical spinoff to mean some desirable side-effect/extension, but after trawling Google Books for a couple of minutes I can't see any clear tendency towards desirability/undesirability in spillovers. –  FumbleFingers Sep 20 '12 at 14:19

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