A Short History of Migration in
and out of Europe
Those who are not
familiar with European migration history and those who have forgotten all about it, may find this article worth reading. Up
to the Second World War European migration history is mainly a history of emigration from Europe to other parts of the world.
Tens of millions of people left Europe. After the Second World War and up to the 1960s skilled and unskilled workers migrated
within and into Europe. Today both professionals, students, and skilled and unskilled workers move from one country to
Emigration from Europe
The earlier migration from Europe had various reasons, but the migrants were more likely to be adventurers
or refugees escaping political or religious persecution than migrant workers. Europeans were eager to explore the world.
The Spanish and Portuguese migrants who went to the Caribbean, to
South and Central America were mainly adventurers and political refugees, as were the French, Dutch, and English who mainly emigrated
to North America.
Those European governments with the ambitions of building worldwide empires naturally encouraged
people to migrate to their new colonies.
For example, in the early 20th century the British government
encouraged Britons to settle in the colonies of the British Empire (The Empire Settlement Act 1922). A specific form of migration
consisted of those English convicts who were deported to Australia.
During the 19th century when industrialisation had already changed the social structure of societies
and agriculture in many European countries, the driving forces for emigration were poverty and hunger, and also persecution
(political or religious). The potato famine in Ireland is a good example of the reasons for emigration.
were migrating from North, South, West, and East Europe, mainly to the USA. Between 1846 and 1890 around 17 million people
left Europe, and 8 million of these came from the British Isles. Some 27 million people left Europe between 1891 and 1920.
However, the First World War marked the end of this mass emigration. In the USA the Quota Act (1921) and Restriction
Act (1924) as well as the Depression of the 1930s reduced migration to the USA.
people did move also within Europe. There were few restrictions on migration before the First World War, and people were free
to travel without a passport through European countries. If they settled down in a new country there were few bureaucratic
There were Dutch, German, Italian, and French merchants and craftsmen settling in the British Isles
with their families already during the medieval times.
Trade often led to new
settlements, especially through the powerful Hanseatic League (from the 13th to the 17th century), which
was a union of trading guilds (Hansa) initially established by Lubeck and Hamburg traders. They negotiated trade agreements
with towns in North Sea and Baltic Sea regions.
Hansa traders also established their own towns and had their own
armies (who came to the rescue of merchants when needed), and their trade covered regions from London (and the whole of England),
to Visby, Novgorod, and Kiev.
Also the early Viking settlers in the British Isles were merchants
rather than warriors. There were also persecuted Jews, Protestants, and Catholics moving from one country to another, depending
on where they felt safe.
In Britain, wealthier people welcomed especially
those newcomers who had such special skills that were needed in Britain, whereas poorer workers were less welcoming since
they feared competition on jobs and housing. Sometimes there were uprisings against foreigners, and specific foreigner taxations
However, the foreigners or migrants did not form any specific (under-)class but rather formed
a mixture of social classes.
For example, the 19th century migrants from Germany to Britain consisted
of royalties, successful engineers and entrepreneurs, exiled intellectuals, as well as of skilled and unskilled labourers.
Sometimes the rules of the country concerning an
ethnic or religious group prevented foreigners from practicing their skills. An example of this are Jews who wished to
settle in Sweden were not allowed to practice their profession (even if their special skills were needed in Sweden)
but only to trade in rags.
the Second World War
Europe had lost around 59 million people due
to emigration (1846-1939), and nearly 8 million lives were lost during the Second World War.
Since there was a
shortage of working age population, the governments were not too keen on encouraging people to emigrate.
further, after the war around 15 million Europeans awaited transfers from one country to another (the situation was similar
in other parts of the world).
late 1950s and early 1960s the economic outlook improved in Europe.
In the beginning it was Italy with its high
population growth and late industrialisation, who supplied workers to other countries, mainly to France and Switzerland.
After that Spain and Portugal provided workers to other countries.
As the economic outlook in these countries
improved, and more job opportunities emerged, people were not keen to migrate, and France and Germany had to recruit from
other countries, Germany from Yugoslavia and Turkey, and France from Northern African countries.
By 1970s the
countries with largest numbers of migrant workers were Germany, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Sweden.
Sweden had migrant workers mainly from other Nordic countries (where the movement of work-force became free during
the 1950s) and from Southern Europe.
is worth noticing that many non-European migrant workers came from or were recruited from countries that used to be European
For example, France and Belgium had their (often French speaking) migrant workforce from African countries,
whereas in Britain the migrants came from the Commonwealth countries.
In Britain workforce came or was actively
recruited (by companies like London Transport) first from the West Indies, and in the early 1960s from the Indian
While many European countries regarded their migrants as guest workers, in Britain they (at least
Commonwealth migrants) were accepted as permanent settlers.
Ordinary Britons were not too keen on these newcomers
because they were competing on jobs and housing.
There were also large numbers of Polish and other Eastern European
refugees in the country after the Second World War.
The 20th century migration that may be described in terms
of ‘pull and push’ factors concerned mainly unskilled poor migrants who wished to move from poorer countries to
countries that could offer work opportunities and a better life.
However, since the 1960s also well-educated professionals,
entrepreneurs, and skilled workers have been migrating from one country to another.
While the earlier Irish migrants
tended to be unskilled workers, the more recent Irish migrants tend to be graduates.
The reasons for the mobility
of professionals are various. Some people move towards better salaries, others are looking for career opportunities or opportunities
to use their special skills which they otherwise would not be able to use. And some move simply because they like to move.
People do not necessarily move from poorer countries to wealthier countries. Some professionals and entrepreneurs
move from wealthier countries to poorer countries, because they see new opportunities there.
Globalisation means that both capital, production technology, work-force, and knowledge
may move or be moved from one country to another and from one continent to another.
may have their manufacturing, distribution, and sales all over the world. Their personnel become an international, attractive
pool. Corporations and ‘headhunters’ look for people with specific skills and international experiences.
Today people are free to move within the European
Union, as they did a century ago. Students are encouraged to study outside their country of origin.
also commuters who live in one country but work in another EU country.
Mobility of work-force and migration within
and into Europe are relatively young phenomena compared with the USA. Americans are also more experienced in receiving
newcomers than the Europeans.
the enlargement of the EU Eastern Europeans migrated mainly to Britain, since Britain (unlike most other EU countries) applied
'open doors' policy.
Migrant workers were (and probably still are) also actively recruited from Eastern
Naturally, when hundreds of thousands newcomers enter a country, many regions are
faced with the problem of finding housing for families and school places for children.
half of the newcomers returned back to their country of origin because the new country showed to be a disappointment.
Once again there are people who fear migrants because they compete on jobs and housing.
It is fair to say that 'history repeats itself' and also that human behaviour repeats itself.
All good history books on European/national history
should mention migration (I studied history for decades ago and cannot remember any author-names or book titles).
Gluck, D., Neuman, A., & Stare,
J. (1998). Den judiska Stockholm. Judiska Museet i Stockholm.
Stalker, P. (1994). The work of strangers: A survey of international labour migration.
Geneva, International Labour Office.
Winder, R. (2004). Bloody foreigners. The story of immigration to Britain.
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European Union of today
are free to move within the European Union. It has become easier to establish businesses in another EU country, and students
are encouraged (and financially supported) to study outside their country of origin.
However, although mobility
has increased, European population has not necessarily increased, since a large proportion of migration takes place within
Between 1998 and 1999 approximately 41 percent of all migration took place between EU countries. In most
EU countries the migration flow from other EU countries was larger than from countries outside the EU or they were quite
Only in France, Italy, Portugal, Austria, and Germany over 60 percent of migrants came from countries outside
In 2007 the estimate of non-nationals (those who are not citizens of the country of residence) was 30.8
million, or 6.2 percent of total EU population. Of these over half were non-EU migrants.
In many EU countries (mainly in the EU countries before the enlargement) the population is ageing, and
the natural demographic growth is low.
Some see the ageing population as a good reason to encourage international
migration to Europe. Between 2003 and 2007 net migration ranged between 1.64 and 2.04 million.
On average it accounted
for 84 percent of the total population growth. (More information on population in the EU can be found in the documents that
can be downloaded on the European Commission for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal opportunities website http://ec.europa.eu/social .
Attitudes towards migrants
European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia publishes
reports on the Majority populations’ attitudes towards migrants and minorities.
The report from 2003
(ref.2003/04/01; see also European Social Survey, 2002-2003), based on cross-national data, indicated that resistance to immigrants
was shared by half of the population (all countries). Resistance to asylum seekers was shared by a third of the population,
thus to a lower degree than the resistance to migrants.
Two out of three supported ‘insistence on conformity
of migrants to law’. Ethnic distance (trying to avoid contact with migrants both in public and private domain) was supported
by one fifth of the population.
There were, of course, variations between
countries and between different groups within societies.
However, this variation did not indicate any clear division
between countries. Instead, social factors contributed strongly to the variation.
Resistance to migrants was highest
amongst those with low level of education and lowest amongst professionals, students, and non-manual workers.
income indicated high resistance to migrants as did high age. Poorly educated people with low income may find that the newcomers
compete on the same jobs as they do.
Self-employed too may be aware of the fact that migrants are over-represented
amongst self-employed and small business owners in most countries, and thus might compete on the same jobs.
unsurprisingly, political orientation towards the far right indicated resistance to migration. Perceived collective ethnic
threat (that migrants and minorities are cultural and economic threats to the majority) followed a similar pattern, as did
being in favour of ethnic distance.
The Institute for Public Policy Research
in Britain published in 2005 an impressive investigation of all Britons who emigrated.
They found that around
5.5 million Britons live abroad. Some countries have attracted Britons in huge numbers.There are 1.3 million Britons in Australia,
over 700 000 in Spain, over 600 000 in the USA and Canada each, and over 200 000 in Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, and
Britons can be found all over the world. In
Sweden there are 19 000 Briton, in Finland 3000, and in Latvia 370 (they did certainly not move to these countries because
of the warm climate!).
There are some 5200 Britons in Bahamas, 2700 in Nepal, 26 000 in Saudi Arabia, 8300
in Argentina, and 18 000 Philippines, etc.
The list is long and those who wish to find out more details can visit
BBC website (Special reports: Brits abroad).
towards own nationals living abroad
The report on Britons abroad attracted a lot of discussions not merely because
of the huge number of Britons who emigrated but also the problems related to living in another country were discussed.
I happened to be listening to a radio programme in which people were encouraged to call about Britons abroad.
I was surprised by the negative tone of many callers (who, without doubt, were deliberately selected by the programme
makers!), especially when talking about those who had ‘not done well’, who were ‘in trouble’, who
didn’t know about the agreements between the EU countries, who didn’t know (well enough) the language of the host
I very much doubt that the same callers would
have had the nerve to express equally negative opinions about the migrants living in Britain, and to expect that once in the
UK, the migrants ought to be successful, or that they ought to speak the language well enough to encounter all kinds of situations
in Britain, be knowledgeable of the British legislations, social system, and norms before entering the country...
And, further, these negative opinions reminded me of
somewhat similar debates in Finland during the 1960 and 1970s concerning Finnish work-force migrants (mainly poorly educated
unskilled workers) to Sweden.
After the Second World War and up to the early 1970s hundreds of thousands
of Finns emigrated to the Northern America and to Sweden.
The Finns in Finland were ashamed of the poor
behaviour of Finnish migrants in Sweden (of course those who were successful or well-behaving were ignored), who obviously
were assumed to show exemplary conduct or act as goodwill ambassadors promoting Finnish culture.
Perhaps it would be worth studying if and why people
tend to expect more of their own nationals who live abroad than of the migrants and other non-nationals living in their country.
We may even ask if people perceive a psychological threat to their collective or individual persona (or even
to their deepest self-conceptions) posed by the misfortunes of their fellow countrymen who live abroad?
prefer to see themselves and their own countrymen and culture as superior to all other nations and cultures?
And do all such thoughts indicate that people tend
to look down to migrants, and especially look down to own countrymen living abroad?
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Are foreigners different?
various reasons for people to migrate, such as moving from a chillier climate to a warmer climate, moving from a poorer country
to a wealthier country in the hope of a better future, moving in order to study in another country, or simply to explore
the opportunities in another country.
Yet it is not quite evident why some people prefer to emigrate
whereas other people in the same region and with a similar socio-economic background prefer to stay at home.
question applies both to those who move within a country and to those who move from one country to another.
Are migrants and foreigners different? There are plenty of myths about migrants, and people tend to prefer the myth that
suits them best!
Fortunately there is more solid evidence available, since research has been carried on migrants,
on potential migrant personality, and on acculturation.
Definitions of migrants and foreigners
To begin with, there are different kinds of definitions of migrants and foreigners. Several decades ago 'Pioneering
personality' and 'Mobicentric man' were used to describe individuals who like to relocate geographically.
Another distinction has been made between
(a) 'resultant migrants' who are pressured
by the situation to move, and seize the first best opportunity to do so,
(b) ‘dislocated migrants'
who are separated from their family members (who already migrated) and who wish to reunite with them, and
(c) ‘aspirers' who are dissatisfied with how well they are doing and who aspire to do better somewhere else. Aspiring
migrants might be seen as the migrants with an inner motivation to do so.
Migrants and sojourners
Another kind of distinction can be made between migrants and sojourners.
The conception of migrant is mainly used to denote people who wish and plan to settle in the new country permanently.
It applies both to those who are well-educated and those who are poorly educated.
It applies to those who already
have an employment arranged when entering the new country, to those who come to look for work, and to those who wish to reunite
with their family members.
It also applies to those retired (or economically inactive) people who decide to settle
in a new country to spend the rest of their lives there.
The conception of sojourner is mainly used to denote
those who plan to stay in the new country for a shorter period of time.
It applies to students, who often spend
one to five years in the new country, to professionals and workers who have an assignment for a couple of years or indefinitely
in another country (within the same or different corporation or organisation).
It also applies to voluntary workers,
to missionaries, to foreign correspondents, to people in diplomatic services, and to military personnel who are assigned to
work in another country for a couple of years.
Some sojourners may live in several countries during their life
time. To this list we may add performance artists and ‘celebrities’ (musicians, singers, actors and actresses,
directors, etc) who have a short term or long term contract in another country. And, finally, we may also add tourists
to this list.
Outside this distinction are refugees who are
involuntary settlers, and the duration of their stay in the new country is not planned or known in advance. Illegal migrants
too are hard to place into this distinction.
Although the distinction between migrants and sojourners is useful in
understanding the complex nature of mobility, in reality a planned short term visit may end up becoming a permanent stay,
and a planned permanent stay may end up being a short term visit.
A sojourner businessman or woman may decide
to establish his or her own business in the new country. An employee may decide to stay in the new country after the assignment
time runs out, and so on.
A decision to stay leads to new problems to solve, such as getting a work
permit (outside the EU for example), getting educational qualifications approved, and dealing with rules and regulations
related to running a business.
Those who wish to return to their country of origin may be prevented from doing
so due to financial difficulties, and those who can afford to move back to their country of origin after living several years
in the new country are once again confronted with the process of adaptation and acculturation.
People in their
country of origin may regard returning migrants and sojourners as foreigners or newcomers.
returning migrants may have children who were born or grew up in the new country, and while the parents are returning migrants,
the children are first generation migrants in the parents’ country of origin.
there a migrant personality?
Some academics have asked whether there is a specific migrant personality that differentiates between
those who wish to leave and those who wish to stay in their country of origin.
The question is reasonable since
within similar regions and similar external circumstances there are people who wish to migrate and people who wish to stay
in their country of origin.
Thus, the assumption that poor people move because they have to, and wealthy people
move because they are adventurous, can be questioned. It may be true in some cases, but not in all cases.
Achievement motivation has been the subject of study in various
projects especially amongst foreign students. Both students who study abroad and migrant populations tend to score high on
And, further, those who express desire to emigrate or who are going to do so, tend to
be more work oriented than family oriented.
However, some studies have established that a good predictor
of a desire to migrate (or to do so) is a combination of work centrality, achievement or power motivation.
according to these studies neither work centrality, nor achievement and power motivation alone differentiate between those
who wish to move and those who wish to stay.
Those who prefer to stay in their country of origin tend to score
high on affiliation motivation and be more family oriented than work oriented.
expresses a desire to establish and maintain interpersonal relations, to build strong and lasting
People who score high on affiliation motivation are emotionally related to their social network
and do not wish to separate from it.
Therefore, it is not surprising that affiliation motivation is linked with
a desire to stay and not with a desire to migrate. Such findings have been more significant amongst male migrants than female
expresses the desire to improve one’s performance,
to do something challenging and unique.
Achievers are constantly looking for something challenging and if the
circumstances surrounding them are restricting their strivings, they may migrate in order to find better opportunities.
is related to the desire to be recognized by others, to the desire of having
control over or impact on others.
Those who score high on power motivation are more willing to take risks
in reaching their goals than those who score low on power motivation.
General dissatisfaction with one’s
own position in society may be the reason for migration. This may apply to poor and uneducated individuals as well as
to wealthy and well-educated individuals.
It has been claimed that restricted opportunities to express political
and social dissatisfaction can lead to the desire to migrate.
What speaks against this evidence?
The evidence supporting the idea of a migrant personality is convincing as long as we limit the conception
of migrants to those who have an inner desire to migrate. In reality there are various kinds of migrants and sojourners.
Previously mentioned ‘Dislocated migrants’ consist of those who wish to reunite with their family members
who already settled in another country.
They do not necessarily wish to migrate but due to external circumstances
might not find any other option.
For example, in many countries children are expected to look after their ageing
parents, and in order to do so, parents need to relocate to the country where their children live (In the Western world of
today the situation is heading towards the opposite directions; retired parents with somewhat good pensions are expected to
financially support their middle-aged children).
Amongst dislocated migrants may be those who score high on affiliation
motivation and the only reason for migration may be the wish to maintain an established social network.
not unusual that a large number of people from the same region migrate, and thus may re-create their old social network in
the new country.
Amongst corporate sojourners there are both those who eagerly and willingly take an assignment
to work in another country, and those who do so only unwillingly or without any greater reflection.
are reluctant to work abroad may value work but avoid risk taking and challenging situations. They may enjoy social
networking within an existing working environment but dislike the idea of establishing new networks in a new environment.
Migrant workers are and have been actively recruited by firms who need work-force. Such recruiters may ease the
decision-making process by offering both work, housing, and transportation to those who are willing to migrate.
A person who otherwise would not have considered migration, may decide to take such an offer partly because there are no
work opportunities available in the region where he or she lives, and partly because most of his or her friends are doing
In sum, there are various kinds of migrants and sojourners with various kinds of personalities. The suggested
migrant personality that involves work centrality, achievement and power motivation, applies only to a specific kind of migrants.
However, all the previously mentioned personality and motivational traits are useful in understanding differences
amongst individuals who migrate.
And, further, as the academics behind these migrant personality studies are well
aware of, such traits are also good indicators of the kind of difficulties individual migrants may confront in the new country.
People who are motivated by achievement and power (over other individuals or circumstances) are likely to confront
different kinds of acculturation problems than people who like to establish and maintain strong social networks (and who probably
miss the social networks they left behind).
Finally, we should not forget that the host population too may be divided
into those who are characterised by work centrality, achievement and power motivation, and those who are family oriented with
strong affiliation motivation.
These traits may well influence the attitudes of the host population towards newcomers,
and the way individual members of the host population encounter (or avoid encounters with) newcomers and how they
understand the problems of newcomers.
related (advanced) reading:
Ward, C., Bochner, S., & Furnham, A. (2001).
The Psychology of Culture Shock. (2nd Ed). Routledge.
B. S., & Frieze, I.H. (2001). Toward a concept of a migrant personality. Journal of Social Issues, 57, 3, 477-491.
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