Law and Practice
Problems in Researching the History of
The essays in this volume illustrate the degree of state intervention in migration processes on either side of the Atlantic in the nineteenth century. Some focus on general questions, others on detailed case studies, but all of them implicitly or explicitly suggest comparisons between different national experiences: between ‘liberal’ and ‘autocratic’ states, or between countries of immigration and countries of emigration. Finding a firm basis for such comparisons involves certain difficulties. One of them is that the type of sources on which research can be based is itself determined at least in part by the system of migration control in place. This concluding essay will therefore seek to address some general questions regarding the sources and their reliability.
The preceding chapters have described the practical implications of the new concept of citizenship introduced by the French Revolution for migration movements. Passport and visa requirements gave state officials much greater power to intervene, which grew as the nineteenth century progressed. For this reason, the decade after 1800 has been described as the beginning of the era of the ‘documented citizen’ (Spencer 1992: 19). On the European Continent, the system of migration control introduced then remained in operation until well after the revolutions of 1848. In the later 1850s and 1860s, however, the (first) passport system was dismantled. Visa requirements and routine passport controls at frontiers were abolished, until they were re-introduced at the beginning of the First World War. Some parts of this story are clearer than others. The processes at the beginning of the