During the period 1870-1914, the Atlantic was a broad highway for migration. Unchecked by government restrictions, wars, or economic depressions, and aided by the new technologies of steamships and railroads, millions of people uprooted their lives and set off for new lands. Americans understand this story as a great saga of immigrants and assimilation of people drawn to the United States as to the promised land of opportunity. But what lay behind this great migration? And how unique was the American experience? To answer these questions, Walter Nugent looks at this massive movement of people from both sides of the Atlantic. Tracing the migrations of more than a dozen national groups from Europe to the four major New World receiving countries - Argentina, Brazil, Canada, and the United States - Nugent discovers a complex story of crossings and recrossings, of tens of millions of human experiences and decisions. Nugent follows the migrants who left rural Europe for American mines and factories, but he also compares the experiences of Europeans on the very different frontiers of settlement at the far reaches of the four receiving countries. And he discusses the migration of women, not only wives and mothers within migrating families but also individuals seeking a new life on their own. Nugent asks important questions about American uniqueness in the context of transatlantic migration history and about the validity of widely held theories of development. He finds that the history of the great migrations is more complex and subtle than these theories. His superb synthesis broadens the scope and clarifies the details of a fascinating story of enormous social and demographic change.
Nugent (Notre Dame) is a fine historian and a good storyteller. His latest book is a multilayered narrative of the movement of millions of Europeans to the Americas. Different from many other descriptions of the transatlantic passages, which tend to be focused on one side of the ocean (the lands of the senders) or the other (the countries of reception and resettlement), Crossings tears down what Frank Thistlewaite once called a saltwater curtain. Nugent moves--and moves his readers--back and forth across the Atlantic, describing the social and political conditions that pushed Europeans out of the Old World and the factors--not least of which was the promise of a better life--that pulled them into the New World, particularly to this country and to Argentina, Brazil, and Canada. Using a variety of social and demographic data by which to compare the several countries of immigration, the author challenges certain widely held assumptions about American [meaning US] exceptionalism. That is one of the subtexts in this interesting and informative work. Added bonuses include excellent maps, clearly presented tables, and a dozen classic photographs of the migrants at home in Europe, enroute to America, and in their new societies.Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914--P. I. Rose "Smith College "