Emigration of Europeans to other continents in the nineteenth century: the case of Italian emigration

In the nineteenth century, along with the population growth, there has been a sharp rise in migration from Europe to other continents ; such population movements last a long time, until the first half of the twentieth century.

Three questions arise: which destinations for migrants, why do they leave Europe and what are the consequences of migration on places of arrival ?

I – An example: how did Italians migrate to America in the late nineteenth century

A – An increasingly important emigration between 1870 and 1910

After 1890, Italian contribution to the emigration flow to the New world was significant. By 1870, Italy had about 25,000,000 inhabitants (compared to circa 40,000,000 in Germany and circa 30,000,000 in the United Kingdom).

A preliminary census done in 1861 after the annexation of the South claimed that there were a mere 100,000 Italians living abroad. The General Directorate of Statistics did not start compiling official emigration statistics until 1876.Accurate figures on the decades between 1870 and World War I show how emigration increased dramatically during that period:

Italian emigrants per 1,000 population:

  • 1870-1879: 4.29
  • 1880-1889: 6.09
  • 1890-1899: 8.65
  • 1900-1913: 17.97

The high point of Italian emigration was 1913, when 872,598 persons left Italy.[7]

Extrapolating from the circa 25,000,000 inhabitants of Italy at the time of unification, natural birth and death rates (without considering emigration) would have been expected to produce a population of about 65 million by 1970. Instead, because of emigration earlier in the century, there were only 54 million.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_diaspora – cite_note-30

Between 1870 and 1910, more than 11 million Italians left their country. The number of emigrants increased significantly over this period: about 1.9 million Italians emigrated between 1881 and 1890; there are over six million between 1901 and 1910.
These immigrants come from all over Italy, but mainly countryside of northern Italy, Campania, Sicily …
Between the years 1861 and 1881, the Italian population increased from 22 to 28.9 million people and campaigns in these regions have experienced significant population growth. But the number of jobs available has not increased as rapidly. The unemployment rate is very important.
With improved transportation in the mid-nineteenth century the price of outbound travel has become more accessible: not finding work in Italy, many Italians try their luck on other continents.

Source 1 : Origins of migrants

emigration italy

B – The chosen destinations

Immigrants choose their destination following personal affinities: presence of family members or community of people from the same geographical origin in the hosting country, language and culture of their relatives, political States encouraging immigration, myth of El Dorado.
Spectacular successes (Andrew Carnegie – young Scotsman who made his fortune in steel in the United States)  are part of the dream.
The United States received about half of the 60 million Europeans who emigrated and 3/4 went through New York.
With the increase of arrivals, the government decided to organize this better. Ellis Island in New York harbor, became the first office of federal immigration. President Harrison created it in 1890. Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants had to go through this real breeding centre, compulsory passage to enter the U.S.
Other destinations of migrants were Canada, Brazil and Argentina … but also Australia, New Zealand, South Africa …

II. Reasons for departures and consequences of immigration in the hosting country

A – Many reasons to go

These reasons are mainly economic and demographic. In the second half of the nineteenth century, a second wave of colonization of the world by European states turned towards Africa, Asia, Oceania … Such areas needed settlers and European workforce to administer and develop trade with the cities.
But in the nineteenth century, European population increased more than two. Wages were lower for smaller social groups, which were also affected by the phases of economic crises and rising cyclical unemployment. So there was a reservoir of labour ready for departure to other continents.

Source 2 : reasons for departure

reasons for departure
This movement is accentuated by the nineteenth-century development of industrialization and improved transport (scheduled Americas and Europe … Europe-Africa/Australia, steamboats).
Some also emigrate, voluntarily or not, because of political reasons (French departures after the failure of the 1848 revolution; deportations of undesirable populations; pogroms against Jews in Russia causing displacement…). Distant colonies also allow cities to get rid of unwanted populations: the British in Australia and send the convicts and prostitutes.
It is assumed also for religious reasons (Protestants in the United States) or for utopian projects elsewhere. Some were attracted by the gold rush and adventure …
Sometimes several factors combine: great famine in Ireland caused by destruction of crops by potato blight between 1845 and 1848. This crisis is compounded by political tensions (Irish nationalist hostility against the crown of England). This context explains the departure of two million Irish mostly to the United States. We can speak here of migration misery.

B – Impact of migration on receiving countries

Migration waves led to the creation of hosting communities of foreign origin. At first their way of life was often miserable and then they had to be settled in precarious and unhealthy home.
Government dealt with social problems and the new cosmopolitanism of the country to promote  integration of newcomers. The latter is not always easy to get since the arrival of foreigners often provoked hostility of the oldest inhabitants, even if they were of foreign origin.
Xenophobic movements then developed. This is the case in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century, when the Irish arrived in New York and were rejected by Americans whose ancestors came from the kingdom of England only a century earlier.
But by integration of second and third generations, immigration also promotes cross-fertilization and expansion of European culture in the world. It therefore contributes to Europe’s influence at the international level.

Source 3 :  – The impact of migration on receiving countries

melting potsalad bowl              « Melting Pot » or Salad Bowl Theory

« Melting Pot » Theory
According to the Melting Pot Theory peoples from various cultures come to America and contribute aspects of their culture to create a new, unique American culture. The result is that contributions from many cultures are indistinguishable from one another and are effectively « melted » together.

« Salad Bowl » Theory
According to the Salad Bowl Theory there are times when newly arrived immigrants do not lose the unique aspects of their cultures like in the melting pot model, instead they retain them. The unique characteristics of each culture are still identifiable within the larger American society, much like the ingredients in a salad are still identifiable, yet contribute to the overall make up of the salad bowl. It is this theory that also accounts for the retention of the « something-American » hyphenation when identifying cultural identity. This theory is also referred to as pluralism.

III. Italians are not the only Europeans to migrate

A – Starting places

The Italians are not the only European candidates at the outset: they occupy the third place after the Anglo-Saxons.
The British are the most likely to go: over 11.4 million. In second place, more than 7.3 million Irish emigrated during this period.
Then come the inhabitants of Southern Europe: Spanish and Portuguese, and the countries of Central Europe and Western Europe: German, Dutch, French … in all regions of Europe, population growth was strong and the population increased significantly.

B – Many more turned to the American continent

Source 4 : origin of migrants 2008

origins of migrants

The Italians emigrated to the world, yet they preferred destinations that varied over the period.
In the 1870s, it was mainly the industrialized countries of Western Europe that attracted them (France, Switzerland, Germany, United Kingdom). Indeed,  jobs have been created in these states because many industries developed.
In the 1880s, mainly Italians moved to the American continent. More than 6 million of them crossed the Atlantic to the Americas:

+ between 1876 and 1880, Italians emigrated to Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. In addition, governments in some Latin American countries, lacking workers and skilled people to develop their economies, launched advertising campaigns and jobs to attract Europeans;
+ Then, from 1880-1890, Italians migrated increasingly to the United States with more than 2.3 million Italians in the early twentieth century.

C – A difficult integration

The first generation in the hosting country is not always easy (rejection, xenophobia…) to integrate. Immigrants tended to cluster in the same neighbourhoods in communities according to their areas of origin (such as Italians in Little Italy neighbourhood in New York). They also remain attached to their culture (language, religious practices, food, lifestyle…).
It was not before the second generation that the offsprings of these early immigrants are assimilated.

Source 5 – A difficult integration

difficult integration