Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives

Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives

Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives

Coerced and Free Migration: Global Perspectives


This volume is an innovative history of major worldwide population movements, free and forced, from around 1500 to the early twentieth century. It explores the shifting levels of freedom under which migrants traveled and compares the experiences of migrants (and their descendants) who arrived under drastically different labor regimes.

The themes of the collection are structured around changes in migration regimes over time, as well as the implications of those changes for the source and host societies, and the migrants themselves. The central and unifying issue is the varying degrees of freedom in the different migratory regimes and what this meant in the long run. In the initial period covered by the book, freedom to migrate had steadily eroded, and migration itself became gradually more free only in the nineteenth century.

All eleven authors have widely acknowledged expertise not only in particular geographic or national branches of migration but also in more than one migratory or labor regime. The volume's wide geographical range incorporates the expansion of Europe eastward (under serfdom), as well as the extension of Africa and Europe westward across the Atlantic (slave, free, and indentured servant regimes), and movements from Asia and Africa by contract laborers. For the first time, experts on the various kinds of migrants have combined to address the issue of migration from the standpoint of the labor arrangement under which the migrants traveled. The result is a collection rich in comparative insights yet cohesive in terms of the issues addressed.


The startling and moving events that swept from China to Eastern Europe to Latin America and South Africa at the end of the 1980s, followed closely by similar events and the subsequent dissolution of what used to be the Soviet Union, formed one of those great historic occasions when calls for freedom, rights, and democracy echoed through political upheaval. a clear-eyed look at any of those conjunctions—in 1776 and 1789, in 1848 and 1918, as well as in 1989—reminds us that freedom, liberty, rights, and democracy are words into which many different and conflicting hopes have been read. the language of freedom—or liberty, which is interchangeable with freedom most of the time—is inherently difficult. It carried vastly different meanings in the classical world and in medieval Europe from those of modern understanding, though thinkers in later ages sometimes eagerly assimilated the older meanings to their own circumstances and purposes.

A new kind of freedom, which we have here called modern, gradually disentangles itself from old contexts in Europe, beginning first in England in the early seventeenth century and then, with many confusions, denials, reversals, and cross-purposes, elsewhere in Europe and the world. a large-scale history of this modern, conceptually distinct, idea of freedom is now beyond the ambition of any one scholar, however learned. This collaborative enterprise, tentative though it must be, is an effort to fill the gap.

We could not take into account all the varied meanings that freedom and liberty have carried in the modern world. We have, for example, ruled out extended attention to what some political philosophers have called “positive freedom,” in the sense of self-realization of the individual; nor could we, even in a series as large as this, cope with the enormous implications of the four freedoms invoked by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1941. Freedom of speech and freedom of the . . .

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