Asian Contract and Free
Migrations to the Americas
WALTON LOOK LAI
ASIAN MIGRATIONS to the Americas in the nineteenth century intersect with a number of overlapping modern themes. These include the global immigration and redistribution of labor in the industrial age, in which Asians of all groups were a new and important element; the varieties of transition from slavery to free labor in the Americas, to some of which Asian indentured labor became relevant; the evolution of different kinds of coercive labor systems in the nineteenth century; the post-1840 expansion of Asian diasporal communities beyond traditional historical and geographical frameworks; and finally, the evolution of multicultural societies in the modern age, in the agrarian periphery as well as in the advanced industrial metropolis. 1
Though overseas migration within the Southeast Asian region was centuries old for both China and India, it was the expansion of the global economy in the age of industrialization and imperialism which laid the foundation for the large migratory movements of labor from these countries to many labor-scarce regions in the colonial (and formerly colonial) periphery of the expanding Atlantic world system. The economist W. Arthur Lewis spoke of late nineteenthcentury global development as being promoted by two vast streams of international migration, 50 million people leaving Europe for the temperate settlements, 13 million of whom went to the new countries of temperate settlement (Canada, Argentina, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa), and another 50 million people leaving India and China to work in the tropics on plantations, in mines, and in construction projects. 2 The actual numbers involved in this second stream have always been a matter of ambiguity, as has indeed the regime under which they worked. 3 The reason for this am
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: Coerced and Free Migration:Global Perspectives. Contributors: David Eltis - Editor. Publisher: Stanford University Press. Place of publication: Stanford, CA. Publication year: 2002. Page number: 229.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.