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Editor: Peter N. Stearns
Date: 2001
Encyclopedia of European Social History
From: Encyclopedia of European Social History(Vol. 2: Processes of Change/Population/Cities/Rural Life/State & Society. )
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 12
Content Level: (Level 4)

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Page 133


Leslie Page Moch

Human mobility has been fundamental to European societies throughout their histories, yet the role it has played has changed with each era. By the eighteenth century, the social organization of migration took recognizable forms that remain useful in observing migration through to the twenty-first century.

Coerced migrations oust people from home against their will (for example, enslaved Africans and persecuted European Protestants) and forbid their return.

Settler migrations move people (like the English settlers in North America) far from home who were unlikely—but not completely unable—to return.

Career migrations move people at the will of their employers, who determine the movement and the possibility of return home (for example, Spanish and Portuguese Jesuit priests in Central America and Brazil).

Chain migrations link people from a common hometown or village with a particular destination. Operating through human contacts, especially people from home who, once settled at the destination, would help newcomers, this may be the most common organization of migration in peacetime history.

Circular migrations are undertaken by people who mean to return home after a period of time (such as their years as a servant or apprentice in town or their months away at seasonal harvest work).

Local migrations keep movers (like the bride from a neighboring village or worker born in the outskirts of the city) close to familiar faces and routines.

Although both men and women moved, migration was distinct for each sex. More men than women left Europe for the Americas until the twentieth century; moreover, men dominated the large teams of migrant harvesters that circulated through regions in the summers. Most migrants were young, single people, and men and women almost always worked at different occupations—this meant that they often chose different destinations, and even in a large city with work for all, young women were often domestic servants while young men were apprentices or laborers. Because women were more likely to travel short distances to marry or to work as servants, women may have actually been more likely to leave home than young men. In addition, noneconomic motives for migration, such as marriage, family difficulties, and a pregnancy to keep secret played a more significant role for women than for men.


European society in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance was primarily rural, yet people were not immobile. Indeed, inquiry into rural mobility has substantially changed our view of European rural history. Trade, exchanges of land, and human relations dictated certain kinds of movements. This remained the case for the coming centuries, to varying degrees. Beggars and pedlars brought news to isolated villages; peasants bought and sold property and moved in free-holding areas. In addition, merchants moved across long distances products that eventually reached elites everywhere: leather from central Spain, wool from England, cloth from Flanders, metals from central German areas, furs and timber from Scandinavia, grain from the north-central European plain, olive oil from the Mediterranean littoral. Finally, social life and church marriage regulations meant that men and women often sought mates outside the confines of their village.

The Protestant Reformation, beginning in 1517, opened a period of wars, repressions, and feuds that marked patterns of mobility. The Peasant Revolt of 1524–1525 marked the beginning of religiously based conflicts that developed into civil wars, the French Wars of Religion, the Dutch Revolt, and the Thirty

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Years' War (1618–1648), all of which emptied out regions, destroying farmlands and families. In addition, religious struggles led Protestant refugees—the Huguenots—to seek shelter in safe havens such as Calvin's Geneva, England, or the Netherlands. Intolerance moved people through the end of the seventeenth century; when Louis XIV terminated tolerance for Protestants by revoking the Edict of Nantes in 1685, for example, some 160,000 Protestants are estimated to have fled France.

With the European—initially Iberian—explorations of the sixteenth century, Spain and Portugal sent thousands of people (almost all men) across the Atlantic and Indian oceans as soldiers, seamen, priests, and traders. As the spice trade with India developed into the extraction of gold and silver in Mexico and Peru, more Europeans went to seek their fortune and many died abroad. These early explorations had two consequences for the mobility of European peoples. First, the seaports thrived; port cities such as Seville and Lisbon grew as they attracted seamen and potential expatriates from surrounding regions. In addition, men and women served as artisans and servants in these unusually prosperous cities; they came from the regions surrounding the seaports as well as from farther afield. Thus, even the earliest European explorations set off movements within Europe.

This is also true of the trade with Africa, which began as a gold trade under Portuguese auspices in the fifteenth century. This trade turned to a trade in enslaved Africans sold initially to work the mines and sugar plantations of the Americas. To date this was the largest single coerced migration in human history. About 8 million enslaved Africans arrived in the Americas before 1820, dwarfing the 2.3 million Europeans who by then had crossed the Atlantic. At least 9.5 million enslaved Africans arrived between the fifteenth and nineteenth centuries. About half of these went to the Caribbean, a third to Brazil, and only about 6 percent to what became the United States. Not until 1840 did more Europeans than Africans cross the Atlantic.

Nonetheless, the empires and explorations of early modern Europe increasingly affected seaports, small towns, and villages as the Iberian empires gave way in importance to those of the Dutch, English, and French. Both London and Amsterdam, for example, grew fivefold between 1550 and 1650, and more than doubled in the seventeenth century. Amsterdam was fed by people fleeing the Spanish Netherlands after 1550, and its imperial trade attracted immigrants from Germany and Norway as well as rural Dutch. A third of the people married in Amsterdam in the seventeenth century and one fourth of the eighteenth-century marriage partners were from outside the Dutch Republic. Many were Norwegian seamen, but German immigrants were most important: over 28,000 German men married in the city in these centuries, and over 19,000 German women. Many newcomers joined the ranks of seamen, but others—like the German women who were domestic servants—joined the labor force of the

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booming seaport. The same is true of London: it grew despite being the departure point for thousands of sailors, colonials, and indentured servants in the seventeenth century; moreover, it was the most important vocational training center for apprentices from throughout England as well as the workplace for young women servants and seamstresses from the surrounding regions. Thus, the early European empires affected not only world political and economic patterns, but also patterns of migration and settlement within the continent. Often, the number of people who entered the city far outnumbered its actual increase in population for two reasons: first, many subsequently went to sea as sailors, indentured servants, traders, or adventurers, never to return; second, many worked in the city and then left again to return home or to try another destination. Turnover and temporary migration were incalculably important to early modern cities.

Aside from the mobility affected by overseas exploration and settlement, the European continent was enlivened by continuing patterns of chain migration, circular migration, and local migrations that stirred the countryside and fueled cities. Many more people moved within Europe than left its shores. Chain migrations linked towns and villages to regional and national capitals as, for example, a sister joined her domestic servant sibling in town or village construction workers joined their experienced compatriots in a growing capital. Circular migrations not only sent workers—and elites—to cities and home again, but also organized harvest work. Local migrations characterized most marriage markets and land transfers.


Two shifts modified the ongoing migration patterns in the eighteenth century. First, around 1750 the population began to grow throughout Europe in a trend that continued until the late twentieth century. In the 1750–1800 period alone, the population increased by 34 percent. Earlier marriage and fewer disastrous epidemics (such as the bubonic plague) meant that more children survived to need work and food; households and villages were fuller than they had been since the fourteenth century. At the same time, the production of goods in domestic settings—called rural industry, domestic industry, or cottage industry—expanded dramatically, increasing to unprecedented volumes as villagers produced products such as yarn, thread, silk, linen, cotton, ship nails, socks, watches, lace, and shoes in their homes. These fundamental demographic and economic developments affected migration so that two distinct patterns of geographic mobility emerged.

On one hand, rural industry enabled villages, small towns, and certain urban centers to thrive—those that coordinated, finished, and exported domestic products. Precisely the small towns that coordinated this production were the kinds of urban areas to grow in this period, and industrial villages also attracted and retained people more than others. Many rural workers were women because the production of lace and fabric depended on women's work. The Austrian cotton firm Schwechat illustrates the size and composition of the labor force: in 1752, 408 workers worked in and around Vienna finishing cloth, 49 distributed raw material, 436 wove cloth (men's work), and 5,655 women were spinners. Rural production had the general effect of supporting people in industrial regions at home.

On the other hand, not all members of the new generations of the eighteenth century were supported by local economies. For more people, leaving home to work became routine. Indeed, by the end of the eighteenth century, seasonal, circular mobility expanded. In western and southern Europe, seven massive migration systems engaged at least 20,000 people each by 1800, most of whom were men. The greatest number of workers in the north traveled to the Paris basin where harvest work in the Ile-de-France and the city created a double attraction; they came from throughout France to work as laborers, traders, and harvest workers. The system that brought men to Holland was next most important, including up to 30,000 men at its peak; they came from Germany and France to work as sailors, servants, and harvesters. A third system in the north brought some 20,000 people to work in London and the home counties; from Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, they divided between urban laborers and harvest workers. The largest system in the south drew about 100,000 workers per year to Corsica, Rome, and Italy's central plain; harvest workers in vineyards and wheatfields and construction workers hailed primarily from Italy's mountainous provinces. The Po Valley engaged about 50,000 people; mountain-dwellers came to its rice fields and construction sites in Turin and Milan. Madrid and Castile attracted not only 60,000 workers from Galicia in northwest Spain, but also an army of upland French; these two groups of workers performed urban work as well as grain harvesting. Finally, the Mediterranean littoral, from northeastern Spain to Provence in eastern France, brought some 35,000 people out of the highlands every year to harvest grain and grapes, and to perform tasks in Barcelona and Marseille. These

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seven systems were essential to the workings of eighteenth-century European economies, and forecast future systems of circular migration by their size and importance.


During the one hundred years between the fall of Napoleon and the opening shots of World War I (1815–1914), demographic and economic shifts again reshaped patterns of human mobility. The first of these is the astonishing growth of the population of Europe. The population of 187 million in 1800 grew to 468 million by 1913, increasing 42 percent in the first half of the century and another 76 percent by World War I. Behind this population growth lay high birthrates, a decrease in deaths from disease, and improved production and distribution of food. Consequently, European populations expanded more rapidly than those of Africa and Asia. In fact, Europeans and people of European origin were 22 percent of the world's population in 1800, and such people were 38 percent of the global population on the eve of World War I.

The second shift is the collapse of rural livelihoods, which began in Britain, to the west, and moved, unevenly, by region, to the east and south. Small farms and subsistence agriculture increasingly gave way to large-scale cash crops, such as the sugar beet. Crops failed: the potato famine in Ireland in the early 1840s is the most disastrous example of food shortages that were widespread, especially in the "hungry forties." Rural industries failed in region after region under the pressure of competition from mechanized industry; they had allowed hundreds of thousands of country people to survive.

Third, mechanized industry took hold in Britain, then on the continent, expanding not only industrial productivity and trade, but also the service sector of urban society. Relatedly, changes in transportation technology furthered long-distance movement, although much mobility, including urbanization, occurred in short regional moves. In the long run, these changes produced an urban society in Europe. By 1900, over half the British lived in towns of over 20,000, as did one-quarter of Belgians and Dutch and one-fifth of Germans and French. Urbanization, the growth in the proportion of people living in cities, is a central characteristic of this period when village society lost its preeminence as urban growth outstripped rural growth.

The collapse of rural livelihoods and the insecurity engendered by these collapses is at the heart of migration shifts, which left millions of people (particularly young people) with few alternatives to departure. Employment as farm hands (farm servants), which had engaged young men and women in annual contracts, was reduced as farm routines were increasingly dictated by the rhythm of cash crops; this meant that fewer people had year-round employment and more joined the teams of sugar beet workers, grain harvesters, and potato diggers that increasingly traveled to large farms to work for a period of weeks or months. The great systems of circular migration of 1800 described above gave way to larger systems of rural workers. For example, at midcentury 50,000 Irish per year worked in England between the time they planted their potatoes in February and harvested them in November. Over 264,000 male and 98,000 female agricultural workers in France moved in seasonal migration circuits, not counting the foreign harvesters like Belgians who harvested grain in northern France. The number of people working the vine harvest—intense, short-term work—reached nearly 526,000 men and 352,000 women. After 1850, when sugar beet cultivation became more important, 50,000 Belgians cut sugar beets in France and over 100,000 international workers (Russians, Poles, and Scandinavians) worked in Saxony. Poles—many of them women—from Galicia went east to Russia and west into German territories to work sugar beet and potato fields. Germany regulated the movement of its international workers to ensure their temporary status, especially Poles, who were required to return home from December to February. Thus, the agricultural labor force was international and mobile in 1914.

This is also true of the labor force that constructed the new transportation infrastructure of the nineteenth century, the railroad. Begun in England in the 1830s and 1840s, then Belgium, the Low Countries, then France, Germany, and Italy in the rest of the century, this was seasonal, outdoor work blasting out tunnels, building bridges, grading railroad beds, and laying rails. Railroad construction employed people willing to live in makeshift barracks in remote areas; these were often foreign workers: the Irish in England, Poles in Germany, and Italians in Germany, France, and Switzerland.

If temporary work was the hallmark of the countryside, it was also true for cities. Most important, the expanding cities of Europe were built by seasonal labor; housing, commercial spaces, public facilities, and urban infrastructures such as streets, sewer systems, tram lines, and subways were based on the summer work of men in the construction trades. Workers from Spanish Galicia and northern Portugal built Madrid, construction workers from Poland and Italy labored in the Rhine-Ruhr zone, masons from central France

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built Paris and Lyon. By 1907, over 30,000 Italians were at work in excavation and masonry in Germany, over 57,000 in construction—this in addition to the 14,000 German brickmakers from Lippe, whose migrant labor shadowed the construction season.

After the countryside, cities were the second great destination of the nineteenth-century European migrant. Millions of men and women moved to cities and—due to insecurity, a desire to return home, or a new opportunity—moved on. It is the net number of people who stayed on who ultimately created an urbanizing continent. Some cities mushroomed where there had only been small towns before; this enormous growth was the hallmark of the industrial age. Many newcomers were women, drawn to the textile towns that offered so much employment in spinning mills in the early industrial period. Manchester, for example, the first city of the industrial revolution, was home to over 41,000 people in 1774, nearly 271,000 by 1831, and over 600,000 in 1900. On the other hand, men outnumbered women in the metalworking and coal towns of the Ruhr Valley. Duisburg, at the confluence of the Rhine and Ruhr rivers, grew from 8,900 in 1848 to nearly 107,000 in 1904. Most cities with a longer history were commercial and administrative centers, and added some industry on their peripheries; their newcomers were proletarian laborers, domestic servants, dressmakers, artisans, clerks, and other service workers. Paris, for example, grew from 547,000 to over 2.5 million during the century; more typically, the provincial town of Nimes in southern France grew from 40,000 to 80,000.

The third great destination of nineteenth-century migrants lay beyond the Atlantic Ocean. Transoceanic migration was not new, but greatly expanded on previous trends. For example, about 1.5 million people had emigrated from Britain to North America in the eighteenth century; some 125,000 German settlers in North America had been increased by about 17,000 mercenaries who stayed on after the American Revolution. After 1815, 30,000 to 40,000 European migrants came to the Americas annually. Then in the 1840s, mass migrations began, fueled by two trends. On one hand, the demand for labor exploded in the farmlands and cities in North America and the sugar and coffee plantations of Latin America. Particularly in Latin America, the abolition of slavery was behind this demand for plantation workers. For example, Brazil, which had absorbed 38 percent of enslaved Africans since 1500, outlawed slavery in stages, from the abolition of the African slave trade in 1851 to the Golden Law of full abolition in 1888; consequently, it recruited Europeans (especially Italians) in hopes of replacing its field workers. On the other hand, Europe's "hungry forties," political struggles, and huge population growth exacerbated suffering and employment and thereby encouraged emigration. Transatlantic departures pushed into high gear as 200,000 to 300,000 Europeans departed in the late 1840s. Most dramatically, during the worst years of the potato famine in Ireland (1846–1851), a million Irish perished and another million set out for England and the United States; at this time the Germans and Dutch, also hard-hit, set out for the United States. Even this number increased so that an estimated 13 million embarked between 1840 and 1880 and another 13 million between 1880 and 1900. About 52 million migrants left Europe between 1860 and 1914, of whom roughly 37 million (72 percent) traveled to North America, 11 million (21 percent) to South America, and 3.5 million (6 percent) to Australia and New Zealand. About one-third of the emigrants to North American returned home.


By the eve of World War I, mobile Europeans crossed the countrysides in work teams, entered the growing cities of the continent, and tried their fortunes abroad; at every destination, many men and women returned home or tried another destination. In many cases, they were part of an international labor force in city and countryside—whether in Europe or the Americas—laboring in factories, fields, offices, and middle-class kitchens. On the continent in 1910, there were over one million foreign workers in Germany, among them nearly 600,000 Poles and 150,000 Italians; foreigners were about 2 percent of the population. France, too, harbored over a million foreigners, over 400,000 Italians and nearly 300,000 Belgians; foreigners constituted about 3 percent of the population. Foreign immigrants were even more important in Switzerland, where nearly 15 percent of the population and 17 percent of the labor force were foreigners, with over 200,000 each of Germans and Italians. Most foreign laborers in western Europe were Polish, Italian, Belgian, or German, but the working reality of the immigrant labor force was more complex than that. Consider the frustrated foreman in the Ruhr Valley in 1901 who could not understand any of the thirty workers under his supervision—despite the fact that he spoke five languages! His work crew were Dutch men from the northwestern Netherlands, Poles from eastern German territories, and Croatians.

World War I. These vast flows of migrants changed suddenly with the outbreak of World War I, heralding a century of dramatic shifts in patterns of mobility

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and increasing state control—at least attempted control—of migration. With the outbreak of hostilities in the summer of 1914, overseas migrations nearly ceased, and in 1915, many Europeans returned home to fight. In Europe, the majority of Germans returned to their country. Not everyone was free to go home, however, and wartime meant labor recruitment and coerced migration. In the interests of the German state, over 300,000 Russian-Polish seasonal industrial and agricultural workers were kept on; where they had been forced to return home annually before the war, they were now forbidden to return. Russian Polish men of military age were retained so that they could not join enemy armies. Germany also used prisoners of war and recruited Belgian workers by force in the winter of 1916–1917, when over 100,000 Dutch and Belgians worked behind German lines. France used similar tactics, expanding its wartime labor force with prisoners of war and contract labor from Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Algeria, Indochina, and China.

The twentieth century was an age of coerced migration for Europeans and for people worldwide. With the end of the war came the first great refugee movement of the century. The war, then revolution and civil war in Russia set off a stream of 500,000 refugees and exiles into Germany, 400,000 into France, and 70,000 into Poland; this stopped only when the border of the USSR closed in 1923. The years of war had forced migration from Polish territories, so that about 700,000 Poles were repatriated by 1923. An estimated 200,000 Germans were repatriated, many from the eastern provinces of the Reich that were returned to a reconstructed Poland after the Versailles settlement. In the west, about 120,000 Germans from Alsace-Lorraine fled into the Rhineland, and 50,000 French moved into Alsace-Lorraine as it once again became part of France. This war, then, not only killed 10 million, but was also the impetus for the flight of Russians, Poles, and Germans to the west and the resettling of people around Alsace and the Rhineland.

After the war, the United States restricted immigration by passing laws in 1921 and 1924 that instituted restrictive national quotas on southern and eastern Europeans, especially cutting off the immigration of Poles and Italians that had been so significant before 1918. Immigration to Germany was reduced as well, since it was plagued by inflation and unemployment in the 1920s; the 2 million foreigners in 1918 were reduced to 174,000 by 1924. (Nonetheless, Germany continued to regulate foreign labor, especially in agriculture, where some 50,000 Polish workers came for the beet and potato harvests in 1920.)

By contrast, the state of France encouraged immigration. It allowed Russian and Polish political émigrés to build communities and also encouraged foreign

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workers for the rebuilding of war-destroyed areas and repletion of its labor force. The state eased the entry of a million reconstruction workers between 1919 and 1924; commercial recruiters brought many Poles—33,000 for sugar beet and wheat harvests, and 139,000 for the mines of northern France—who formed a cohesive and important minority. In addition, an increasing number of Spanish and Italians entered southern France. On the eve of the Depression, France had an unmatched number of foreign workers, 1.6 million, including, in order of importance, Italians, Poles, Spaniards, Belgians, Germans, Swiss, Algerians, Russians, Yugoslavs, Czechs, and Romanians.

With the Depression of the 1930s and the unemployment it engendered, the flow of workers throughout Europe altered dramatically. Most countries encouraged repatriation and restricted entries of foreigners. Germany closed its doors; by 1932, only 108,000 foreign workers remained, most of whom were longtime residents with permanent visas, and only 5,000 were agricultural workers. Only France was needy enough to require a significant bedrock of foreign workers, because its labor force had been so depleted by World War I and because its birthrate had long been low.

The movement of refugees began again between the wars, as fascist victories ousted political enemies and specific ethnic groups. For the victims of fascism in Italy, Germany, and Spain, France was the most important asylum on the continent. The first to exit were Italians who left in the wake of Mussolini's ascension to power in 1922. With Hitler's appointment as chancellor in Germany in 1933, 65,000 Germans left the Reich, about 80 percent of whom were Jews. Refugees of the 1930s faced restrictions, bureaucratic sluggishness, and anti-Semitism. Between 1933 and 1937, over 17,000 Germans, 80 to 85 percent of whom were Jews, found asylum in the United States. The Jews of Poland, Romania, and Hungary, who far outnumbered German Jews, were also in flight, because their home states increasingly persecuted Jews. As conditions in Central Europe deteriorated, Polish Jews predominated among the nearly 62,000 who found refuge in Palestine in 1935. By the eve of World War II, 110,000 Jewish refugees, many of whom were attempting to leave the continent altogether, were spread throughout Europe—about 40,000 in France, 8,000 in Switzerland, and many among the 50,000 people who found asylum in England in the 1933–1939 period. In 1939, France was literally awash in refugees, as some 450,000 Spanish republicans who came in the wake of Francesco Franco's victory in the Civil War joined those fleeing fascism in Italy, Germany, and Central Europe.

World War II. With the outbreak of war, the uprooting and displacement of peoples began on a monumental scale. On the western front, refugees fled before the German armies; by the end of May 1940, 2

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million French, 2 million Belgians, 70,000 Luxembourger, and 50,000 Dutch were displaced and destitute in northern France. One-fifth of the French population fled toward the south. That summer, 100,000 French left Alsace-Lorraine as Germany repossessed this territory.

These upheavals in the West were less severe than those in the East, where masses of people were deliberately uprooted by Nazi policies and Soviet displacements. For example, Germany divided Poland into a western zone that was incorporated into the Reich and an eastern zone (the "General Government") for unskilled slave labor. Quickly, 1.5 million Poles, including 300,000 Jews, were deported to the General Government to make room for the favored German ethnics, like those from the Baltic states, who were uprooted with equal speed. European Jews who were trying to flee were caught in two forces by the end of 1941, when the final solution became defined as the murder of all European Jews: on one hand, avenues of escape dried up as the United States and Palestine both resisted entrants; on the other, Nazis began to round up Jews and send them to the General Government.

Other Europeans were pulled into the German Reich to be part of its wartime labor force. Early on, two million workers from the defeated nations and two million prisoners of war were coerced or persuaded to work in German fields and factories; by 1944, one worker in five was a foreign civilian or prisoner of war and Germany's forced laborers numbered over 7 million, primarily Soviets, Poles, and French.

With the war's end in 1945, millions of people took to the road. Forced laborers and prisoners of war returned home, and by the time the winter of 1945–1946 closed in, most of 11 million people moving west were repatriated. With the German retreat from the east, came two major, permanent shifts of European people and the second great refugee crisis of the century. The first shift was a move from east to west, as the advance of the Soviet army sent Germans fleeing into Germany—even long-established German minorities in central and eastern Europe. This marked the end of the historic eastward movement of Germans. The second shift was the destruction of European Jewry. The Allies anticipated that at least a million Jewish refugees would be found at the end of the war, but the number fell far short of that; for example, of Poland's Jewish community of greater than 3 million people, only some 31,000 (2.4 percent) survived. (Of those remaining, many Jews chose to leave Europe after the war, including some 340,000 who settled in Israel in the 18 months after its founding.) All told, the number of people displaced by the 1939–1945 war in Europe amounted to 30 million—men, women, and children of Eastern, Central and Western Europe who were displaced, deported, or transplanted in wartime.

The dramatic coerced migrations of wartime and large-scale prewar labor migrations occurred against a backdrop of ordinary movements that had long animated the lives of Europeans, such as moves to another village, regional city, or capital. By the end of World War II, however, fundamental changes at work in Europe since about 1880 altered the nature of migration for the second half of the century: levels of education and literacy had increased; European birthrates had declined; and European states were regulating foreigners with greater care. After 1950, the continent increasingly sought foreigners for unskilled jobs in agriculture, production, and services. Such people were in demand especially as smaller generations came to maturity. States sought them out, recruited them, and attempted to control their movements.

The immediate postwar period marked a fundamental shift in migration patterns that endured for the remainder of the twentieth century: there was adequate work in Europe for its people so that relatively few departed; indeed, the days of mass labor migration to the Western hemisphere had definitively ended. Concomitantly, Europe became a continent of immigration, and northwestern Europe a core attraction for Asians and Africans, as well as for Europeans from the south and east. The work of postwar rebuilding occupied the surviving population—and much of the new population. In the case of Germany, newcomers included 12 million Volksdeutsch refugees, who reached western Germany between the end of the war and 1950. From farther away came Asian Indians, members of now-independent nations of the New Commonwealth who numbered 218,000 by 1951; they joined England's immigrants of long standing, the Irish. These immigrants of the late 1940s and 1950s signal two demographically vibrant sources for newcomers to northwestern Europe: former colonies (which increased with decolonizations in the 1960s and 1970s), and the nations of southern Europe and the Mediterranean basin.

The foreign workers of postwar Europe echoed historical patterns and processes. These men and women entered the labor market at times when the deaths and low birthrates required new workers to substitute for a demographic lacuna; the twentieth-century migrants filled places left by the World War II dead and by the low birthrates of the depression just as previous migrants filled places left by the Thirty Years' War and other disasters. The newcomers complemented the place of the native-born in the labor

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force by taking the difficult, low-status jobs that Europeans avoided. Like the migrants in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, most postwar immigrants came from regions short on capital and long on population, regions much poorer than northwestern Europe. Moreover, the migration processes were similar to those of the past: most postwar migration streams were pioneered by men, but came to include a significant proportion of women. Like earlier migrants, the men who founded these migration streams to northwestern Europe intended to maintain or enhance their lives at home with money earned abroad; they came for months or years, but they did not intend to remain in Europe. As they had in the past, however, many stayed, sent for their families, and became a permanent part of European society.

Immigration into northwestern Europe increased dramatically between 1950 and 1972 as postwar rebuilding gave way to a prolonged economic boom. Like the 1880–1914 period, the postwar economic success created a time of intense capital formation, which engendered massive international migration. New Commonwealth nations (former British colonies in the Caribbean, the Indian subcontinent, and Africa) and East Germany both sent a flood of immigrants until they were cut off by the Commonwealth Immigrants Acts of 1962 and the construction of the Berlin wall in 1961. Western Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany, FRG) recruited workers through bilateral agreements with Italy and then with Turkey, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, and Yugoslavia. By 1971, over 3.2 million residents of the FRG, about 5 percent, were foreign born. These included over a million Turks, nearly 750,000 Yugoslavs, and over 500,000 Italians. At the same time, France housed about 3.3 million immigrants, approximately 6.7 percent of its population. The largest group of new arrivals were Algerians (nearly 850,000) who came to France in the wake of Algerian independence in 1962, in addition to 1.8 million southern Europeans from Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Although their numbers were fewer, foreigners also flocked to Switzerland, where 750,000 immigrants made up 16 percent of the population; the majority (500,000) came from Italy, but also from Spain, Yugoslavia, and Turkey.

All in all, the northwestern European countries of the FRG, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and the Netherlands hosted nearly 8 million nationals from Italy, Spain, Portugal, Greece, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco in the early 1970s. With the exception of Algerians in France and other former colonials, most foreign nationals were thought of as temporary residents by host nations, or "guestworkers" (Gastarbeiter) as they were called in Germany. The majority were men who had come to work, and especially in Switzerland (where foreign workers from the south lived in barracks as they rebuilt the infrastructure of Geneva) had limited rights to stay. There the language problem on work sites could be like it was in 1910 because labor teams combined men of different nationalities; ironically, although the city of Geneva specialized in international communications and hosted a well-educated corps of diplomatic, professional, and clerical employees, the construction workers—from central Spain, from southern Italy, from Bosnia—shared only a few words.

The expectation that foreign residents were temporary migrants was tested—and proven wrong—in the wake of the oil crisis, inflation, and recession that began in 1973. Over half of the eight million foreigners in northwestern Europe were wives, children, and other relatives who were not working (or did not report employment). Like circular, temporary, migrants in past centuries, the workers of the 1960s were willing to distort their lives considerably—to work at difficult, demeaning, and dangerous jobs; to tolerate very bad housing—as long as these conditions were temporary. However, migrant workers had not been willing to forego all hope of a family life. They had arranged periodic returns home, married at destination, or had sent for their wives. Some wives had been recruited as laborers in their own right, and many children were brought along or born in the host country. In any case, migrant communities had changed, and their demographic structure by 1973 more resembled immigrant communities than temporary labor groups.

Nonetheless, host countries made vigorous efforts to stop immigration altogether. In November of 1973, the FRG banned entries of workers from non–European Community nations and within a year several other governments did the same. France banned the entry of dependents as well as of workers, then offered a repatriation allowance. The Netherlands and Germany began assistance plans for Yugoslavia and Turkey to increase employment in workers' home countries. No country except Switzerland, however, instituted the stringent measures necessary to keep foreigners out, efficaciously barring the entry of dependents. The attempt to shut off immigration was fundamentally unsuccessful, and more dependents joined their relatives in northwestern Europe. The absolute number of foreign residents increased by 13 percent in the FRG between 1974 and 1982, by 33 percent in France (1969–1981) and by 13 percent in Britain (1971–1981). Although the flow of newcomers was reduced from the 1960s, the total numbers of foreign residents did not diminish and they appeared to be "guests come to stay."

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The economic crises of the early 1970s sharpened hostility to foreign workers and gave birth to several anti-immigrant political movements that retained their energies through the end of the century. European prejudices—irritated by the phenotypical distinctiveness of many foreigners, their visibility in local labor markets, and their numbers in many cities—fed off social stress and fueled antiforeign incidents. Algerians were murdered in southern France and their wives were denied residence permits in the north. Similar actions against Pakistanis in Britain and against Turks in Germany reflected growing hostility to immigrants, particularly to those who were distinct in race or ethnicity. Resentment was fueled as foreigners became more visible as their children entered school systems, social welfare programs attended to their families, and public housing attempted to eradicate the shantytowns that had spread on the edge of many a metropolis. Organized racist groups such as the National Front in Britain, and neo-Nazis in the FRG, and anti-immigrant political parties such as the Front National in France, and the Centrum Partij in the Netherlands, expanded in the anti-immigration politics of the 1970s. The large proportion of Muslims among newcomers in Europe called forth a particularly strong response, as an anti-Muslim bias was deep-rooted and of long standing in Europe. Like many migrants throughout history, Muslims who entered European urban society brought distinct patterns of gender relations, fertility, and labor force participation.

Migration to Europe of significant, but stable, ethnic minorities and immigration patterns shifted again shortly before the European Union was to be finalized in 1992. The opening of the Berlin Wall in 1989, followed by the unification of Germany in 1990 and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, put Germany at the center of a host of migration streams, including East-West movement of labor migrants, asylum-seekers, and ethnic Germans from the former Soviet Union, Poland, Romania, and other Eastern European countries. Under German law, ethnic Germans have rights to citizenship; 397,000 of these Aussiedler arrived in 1990, 148,000 from the Soviet Union, 134,000 from Poland, and 111,150 from Romania. Fears proved groundless that an open Europe, shut off from the East by Cold War policies, would become a "Fortress Europe" implementing exclusionary policies to keep out East Europeans; although Germany received great numbers of ethnic Germans and refugees, by the end of the twentieth century there was no great flood of Eastern Europeans to the west. Rather, Poland and Hungary were becoming nations of immigration. Refugees from the Balkan wars of the 1990s were part of a formidable contingent of asylum-seekers from countries such as Eritrea, Afghanistan, Chile, Argentina, and Vietnam, as well as from eastern and southern Europe.

The close of the twentieth century, then, found Europe transformed by the human mobility of the century, which showed no signs of slowing in a global age of migration. The foreign-born, and their children, were an important contingent in the increasingly diverse societies of this continent. In 1990, there were 1.9 million foreign citizens in the United Kingdom (3.3 percent of the total population). European Community nationals made up nearly half the foreign-born, signaling the fruits of free movement among members of the European Union; the largest single groups in Britain were the 638,000 Irish, followed by 155,000 Asian Indians. Foreign residents made up 6.4 percent of France's total population, where the most significant groups were 646,000 Portuguese, 620,000 Algerians, and 585,000 Moroccans. The 4.6 percent of the Dutch population that was foreign came largely from Turkey (204,000) and Morocco (157,000). In Switzerland, where 16.3 percent of the population was foreign born in 1990, the largest groups were the 379,000 Italians, 141,000 Yugoslavs, and 116,000 Spaniards. It is difficult to discern the foreign-born in

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Germany, where newcomer Germans are counted as citizens, but in 1990, Turks remained the largest immigrant group at 1.6 million people, followed by Yugoslavs.

The reception of newcomers continued to be ambivalent at the opening of the twenty-first century. Although Europe needed laborers, the parties set against immigration, such as France's Front National and Austria's Freedom Party, were political forces to be reckoned with, German conservatives urged people to have more children rather than to accept immigrants, and Britain marshaled laws against the tide of asylum seekers. On the other hand, some children of immigrants enrolled in universities and others held skilled positions. Human mobility and intrepid migrants were, as ever, at the heart of European society.

See also Emigration and Colonies ; Immigrants ; Nineteenth Century (volume 1); Urbanization (in this volume); Gender and Work (volume 4).


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Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3460500078