European migration history

Authored by: Jan Lucassen , Leo Lucassen

Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies

Print publication date:  December  2012
Online publication date:  May  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415779722
eBook ISBN: 9780203863299
Adobe ISBN: 9781135183493


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Traditional overviews of migration in Europe in the modern era are based on the so-called mobility transition. This still influential interpretation claims that until “modernization”— meaning roughly the Industrial Revolution and the accompanying massive population growth and urbanization—European societies were largely static and levels of migration therefore low. Only through the modernization process did people become uprooted and in large numbers leave the countryside to flock to the city, not only within Europe, but also overseas. This explains the disproportionate attention in many studies on migration of the 50–60 million Europeans who went to the Americas and Oceania. Only after World War II, so the conventional view goes, did migration to Europe become significant. [High levels of immigration occurred through the decolonization of Western European countries like the UK (from South Asia and the Caribbean), France (Africa, South East Asia, and the Caribbean), Belgium (Congo), Portugal (Mozambique and Angola) and the Netherlands (Indonesia and Surinam).] Another large immigration consisted of guest workers and their families from Northern Africa and Turkey and finally the number of asylum seekers from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East increased significantly from the 1980s onwards.

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