Migration in European History

Migration in European History

Heisler, Barbara Schmitter

Migration in European History. By Klaus Bade. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2003. Pp. 402. $69.95.

This book by one of Europe’s leading historians of migration presents a tour de force overview of migration, to, from and within Europe. While the time span under consideration ranges from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries, the main focus is on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and a third of the volume is devoted to the period since the second World Wat which, according to the author, “represents a major break for migration and migration politics in Europe” (p. 276). The geographic range is broad, and includes all of Europe, as well as various countries of destination outside Europe, in particular the United States, but the more detailed discussions center on three countries, France, Germany and the United Kingdom, with secondary consideration of Switzerland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland and Italy.

The author’s overall purpose is not only to capture the complex historical reality of European migration but also to undcrstand how developments in the past connect to present day issues. He clearly demonstrates that while the economic, cultural, political and social contexts have changed migration with all its types, ranging from temporary to permanent, from labor migration to industry and agriculture to colonial settlements, to refugees escaping from persecution has always been a major force in European history.

To do this he has chosen what he calls “a mixed form” approach which combines “epoch and structure” (p. xii). Thus, although the six chapters follow a chronological outline, beginning in the eighteenth century (Chapter 1) and ending at the end of the twentieth century (Chapter V), each discusses the major economic, social, cultural and political contexts of migration within, to and from Europe. Each chapter includes more in depth descriptions and analyses of two or three countries as typical examples of the main types of migration found within each context and the issues that surround them. For example, in Chapter IV entitled “Migration and Migration Policies in the Cold War” he provides an excellent overview of the main types of migration (post-colonial migration, labor migration, including guestworkers, immigrant and ‘illegals/ and asylum and refugee migration) and the policy debates and issues (citizenship and welfare state, multiculturalism and assimilation, formal and informal immigration countries) that have accompanied them in the period between World War II and the end of the Cold War. The general discussion is augmented by more indepth illustrations focusing on individual countries.

The book, which is part of a series on the Making of Europe, accomplishes its goals and fills a need, it complements Leslie Page Moch’s Moving Europeans (1992), which focuses primarily on the period between the seventeenth and the nineteenth centuries and Dirk Hoerder’s monumental Cultures in Contact which treats a whole millennium and is global in scope. Historians and social scientists interested in tlie history of European migration and “the incidental collision, conflicts and fusion of peoples and of cultures they occasion” (Robert Park, 1928: 881) will find this an excellent addition to the general literature on the history of migration in the European context. It also provides an overview and a wealth of references to the many specific topics that continue to make migration one of the most hotly debated issues in the world today.

The book ends somewhat abruptly, with a discussion of Third World migration to Europe and European defensive measures to guard against refugees from Third World countries; and the author notes that such defensive measures, without addressing the causes for their flight, represent a “historical scandal.” While I agree with the sentiments underlying this statement, I had the sense that this concluding sentence required more of an explanation.

Copyright Center for Migration Studies Fall 2004

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