Immigration Past, Immigration Present: Confronting the Internal “Other” in Europe


Oliver Grant.  Migration and Inequality in Germany.  Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005.  416 pp.  $190.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-927656-1.

Leo Lucassen.  The Immigrant Threat: The Integration of Old and New Migrants in Western Europe since 1850.  Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2005.  296 pp.  $25.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-252-07294-9.

Elia Morandi.  Italiener in Hamburg: Migration, Arbeit und Alltagsleben vom Kaiserreich bis zur Gegenwart.  Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2004.  398 pp. EUR 54.00 (paper), ISBN 978-3-631-52205-9.

Peter J. van Krieken.  The Consolidated Asylum and Migration Acquis: The EU Directives in an Expanded Europe.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.  350 pp.  $75.00 (paper), ISBN 978-90-6704-180-5.

Immigration is now generally acknowledged as a fact of life across the democratic political spectrum within Europe, and a vast array of policies and programs have been adopted over the past decade to integrate “newcomers” into the mainstream.  Nevertheless, immigration remains a highly contentious issue within the public consciousness, especially when stirred by a populist press, and a collective reticence to acknowledge the historical nature of migration both to and within Europe persists.  In Germany, sentiment that the country is “not a land of immigration” remains strong, while in Britain current debates over “Britishness” bizarrely neglect the multiculturalism implied in the term.  Meanwhile, the recent opening of a Museum of Immigration and the election of Nicolas Sarkozy in France have not necessarily dulled the collective amnesia of many to France’s long, if troubled, history as a destination for immigrants from across Europe, Africa, Asia, and beyond.  Fortunately, over the past thirty years the field of European migration studies has grown dramatically, with scholars making significant inroads into examining both historical and contemporary issues of immigration.1  The works under review are welcome additions to this ongoing effort to engage with and relate the history of immigration to a wider audience.

The Immigrant Threat is a far-reaching, comparative examination across time and geographic space dealing with the mid- to late-nineteenth-century and post-World War II migration waves to Great Britain, Germany, and France.  Leo Lucassen’s main argument is that various post-1945 immigrants will over the long term integrate into European society in a manner similar to that of earlier immigrant groups.  Embracing a moderate “melting pot” perspective, Lucassen suggests that at least three generations must pass before immigrant ethnics are able to become more or less integrated into mainstream society.  Therefore, it should not be surprising that the assimilation of many current immigrants, millions of whom are second- and third-generation children of 1960s-era guest workers, remains incomplete.  Nonetheless, clear signs are visible that the vast majority of newer immigrants are gradually integrating, in terms of both increasing socioeconomic advancement and cultural self-identification with the host society.  Consequently, fears that newer immigrants are building parallel societies or doomed to exist in isolated, ghettoized subcultures are vastly overblown.  As Lucassen notes, newer generations of migrants “will blend into western European societies, adding to it flavors and colors, as so many migrants have done in the remote and recent past” (p. 213).

To support his argument, Lucassen divides the study into two parts, concentrating first on examining European experiences with “Old Migrants,” then with “New Migrants.”  For each country, the (old/new) migrants chosen are: Great Britain (Irish/Black Caribbean), Germany (Poles/Turks), and France (Italians/Algerians), respectively.  With the exception of Black Caribbeans in Britain, the specific groups comprise the largest “foreign” populations within their respective time periods.

In constructing his study, Lucassen does a superb job of consulting a wide array of secondary sources in order to weave together a general history of each group’s experience within their respective host society.  In particular, he highlights well how various minorities have suffered from exclusion based on their religion, ethnicity, political outlook, race, and perceived economic threat as well as the extent to which such minorities have been able to overcome barriers to integration.  In terms of the latter, Lucassen raises important questions regarding the effectiveness of state policy in influencing the integration process, as well as skillfully underscoring the importance of gender in understanding varied patterns of social advancement among immigrant groups.

The study does have certain weaknesses that, at times, lessen the effectiveness of the analysis.  First, Lucassen paints in broad brushstrokes, leaving potential for errors and omissions to occur in the histories of the specific groups under examination.  An obvious case in point is his examination of the four hundred thousand-strong Polish-speaking minority that migrated to the Ruhr from eastern Prussian provinces prior to World War I.  Lucassen views this Polish community as a notable example of successful immigrant integration.  However, he fails to mention or account for the fact that by the mid-1920s, two-thirds of the prewar community had actually left Germany, opting either to return to Poland or migrate to northern France.2  Hence, his claim that Poles provide an example of past integration success, one that subsequent newcomers to Germany such as Turkish immigrants can and likely will imitate, is not particularly convincing.  While some Poles did indeed eventually integrate, the numbers were less and the acculturation process more complex than the author suggests.

Second, Lucassen’s comparative analysis tends to emphasize similarities as opposed to differences between the groups studied.  In the case of Germany, Poles were internal migrants who possessed important political, civil, and social rights based on their status as Prussian citizens; present-day Turkish immigrants have comparatively fewer rights.  In general, the inadequate consideration the study gives to the relationship between citizenship and integration is surprising.  Additionally, Lucassen’s arguments that the challenges of race and especially religion are essentially the same now as they were a hundred years ago is unconvincing.  For example, the assertion that “the gap between” Catholics and Protestants in the nineteenth century “was deeper than that which exists between Christian (and agnostic western Europeans) and Muslims at the present time” (p. 48) all too easily overlooks fundamental and irreconcilable differences between European secularist and some Islamic cultural traditions.

Overall, however, Lucassen provides an admirable contribution to examining and understanding issues of immigrant integration within Europe.  The comparative methodology is ambitious and his arguments provocative.  This concise study will appeal to a broad audience, is suitable for classroom use, and is a necessary read for historians and social scientists interested in migration and ethnic studies.

A comparative perspective also underlies the work of Oliver Grant, who contests Sonderweg interpretations that emphasized the abnormal nature of Germany’s modernization during the late nineteenth century.  Instead, Grant suggests, German economic and political development during this period was, on the whole, not particularly different from that experienced in other newly industrializing countries, both past and present.  Adopting a quantitative, econometric approach, the author maintains that by 1900, the German economy was maturing to the point that the country was gradually overcoming the effects of its “labor surplus” phase of industrialization, a period marked by the rapid migration of millions from agriculture into industry, high levels of social inequality, and an illiberal, “top-down” political structure.

The key consequence of this emerging economic stabilization was a lessening of social inequality that in turn served to encourage more moderate party politics and increasing levels of internal democratization.  According to Grant, notable evidence for these developments can be seen in the rise of a non-revolutionary SPD and the party’s increasing ability to appeal not only to workers but also disaffected segments of the middle classes by 1912.  In essence, Grant proposes, by the onset of the twentieth century, Germany was transforming itself into a liberal democratic society, a process that was unfortunately “derailed” by the tragedy of World War I.

Grant’s arguments against the Sonderweg continue the reevaluation of German political culture in the Wilhelmine period that has been ongoing over the past twenty-five years.3  His particular contribution in supplying a forceful economic, as opposed to strictly political or cultural, perspective to these debates is welcome.  The study will be of particular interest and relevance to economic historians.  At the same time, however, Grant’s work is overly wedded to economic models of development and tends to underestimate the durability of premodern cultural traditions, as well as their influence on economic and political relations.4  Another limitation is the inconsistent nature of the approach in those sections where effort is made to highlight Germany’s relative “normality” vis-à-vis other countries.  Specifically, the countries to which Germany is compared vary widely, giving an impression that the author is at times cherry-picking examples to suit his argument.  Further, given Grant’s commendable desire to place German modernization within a broader global perspective, it might have been fruitful to dedicate space to comparing Germany’s development with that of the United States, the other major late-nineteenth-century industrializing power.

Finally, the main thesis of the work remains speculative.  Germany did choose to go to war, a decision that the author is unable to explain effectively.  Moreover, even if Germany had not chosen the path of militarism, no compelling reason emerges to believe that the country necessarily would have evolved to embrace a western-style political culture, unless one axiomatically assumes, per Francis Fukuyama and others, that capitalism and democracy are inextricably linked.5  It was, after all, under a SPD-dominated Reichstagthatthe illiberal ius sanguis provisions of the 1913 Citizenship Law were adopted.  In the end, Grant’s work is quite valuable for the detailed structural analysis of German economic developments it provides, especially in terms of the effects of internal migration, but less persuasive when considering the political and cultural ramifications of such developments.

In contrast to the macro-approaches of Lucassen and Grant, Elia Morandi provides a micro-level urban history documenting the political, cultural, and economic lives of ethnic Italians in Hamburg from the late nineteenth century onwards.  Except perhaps for the World War II period, the subject of Italian immigration to Germany remains insufficiently explored, and Morandi makes an outstanding contribution to understanding the integration of this ethnic group.6  Utilizing a wide range of primary sources drawn from both German and Italian archives, the author stresses that in comparison to other, numerically larger immigrant groups such as Turks and Yugoslavs, ethnic Italians have been able to integrate more easily into Hamburg society.

This success was due to various factors.  Italian migrants both historically and presently exhibit high rates of exogamy, a practice that in turn contributes to higher levels of social mobility.  Further, the existence of a pre-World War I migrant beachhead in Hamburg, though small and largely drawn from northern Italy, served to facilitate integration of post-1945 migrants arriving from southern Italy.  Interestingly, this development was not due to any deep-seated intra-ethnic solidarity.  As Morandi highlights, earlier generations of northern Italians were highly suspicious of southern Italian “newcomers” and contact between the two immigrant waves was limited.  Instead, the crucial contribution made by the pre-World War I generation to the relative success of post-World War II immigrants lay in the positive impression that early Italian settlers made in the collective mind-set of the host society.  Accordingly, while post-1945 immigrants from Italy were subject to certain negative stereotyping, they were still more readily accepted by the German majority than other minorities, especially those from outside the European Union.

Morandi’s study helps broaden our understanding of how immigrants have experienced life in Germany, especially on the local level.  The work could be better theorized, however, especially when dealing with key concepts such as integration, acculturation, and assimilation.  It is also repetitive in places, and for an immigration study, insufficient consideration is made of either the role of religion or ethnic politics on Italian integration outcomes.  Finally, Morandi has a tendency to emphasize similarities between the pre-World War I and post-1945 Italian immigration to Hamburg.  This result is understandable, given the author’s desire to stress the long history of Italian migration to the city as well as the continuities in challenges faced by successive immigrant streams.  Still, a greater discussion of the differences between the two immigrant waves and the challenges they faced, especially in the conclusion, would have made the study stronger.  These critiques, however, are minor and should not detract from the generally excellent and detailed insight into Hamburg’s Italian community that Morandi provides.

While the previous three works have largely dealt with immigration past, the Acquis concentrates on providing an overview (through 2004) of the present body of European Union law regarding asylum and migration.  In the introduction, Peter J. van Krieken presents a summary and chronology of major EU directives since the 1985 Schengen Agreement, as well as overviews of major contemporary immigration debates to 2004 and beyond.  The author suggests that a key part of dealing with issues of migration and asylum rests not in enabling more migration to Europe, but in promoting sustainable economic development in the third world, which over the long term will help decrease the appeal of Europe as a migrant destination of choice.  Whether one agrees with this argument or not, van Krieken contributes a concise and accessible work detailing all of the major EU directives adopted in response to the criticisms of the United Nations Human Rights Committee, including recent EU directives on human trafficking; asylum seekers; long-term, third-country nationals from outside the EU; and family reunification.  For those interested in issues of contemporary immigration to Europe, the Acquis provides an invaluable reference aid.

Taken together, the four works highlight the growing diversity of directions in migration studies.  All provide new insights into the historical and contemporary phenomenon of migration to and within Europe.  Each uniquely expands upon and contributes to the overall strength of the field.


1  Excellent, groundbreaking European migration studies include: Klaus Bade, ed., Auswanderer, Wanderarbeiter, Gastarbeiter: Bevolkerung, Arbeitsmarkt und Wanderung in Deutschland seit der Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts, 2 vols. (Ostfildern: Scripta Mercaturae, 1984); Dirk Hoerder, ed., Labor Migration in the Atlantic Economies: The European and North American Working Classes During the Period of Industrialization (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1985); Gerard Noiriel, Le creuset français: Historie de l’immigration XIX-XX siècles (Paris: Du Seuil, 1988); Colin Holmes, John Bull’s Island: Immigration and British Society, 1871-1971 (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988); Leslie Page Moch, Moving Europeans: Migration in Western Europe since 1650 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); and Steven Hochstadt, Mobility and Modernity: Migration in Germany 1820-1989 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999).

2  Lucassen’s observation that “only a small number of Poles left Germany” while “the overwhelming majority chose to stay . . . to take part in the integration process that started in the 1880s” is incorrect (p. 68).  Notable studies examining the history of Poles in the Ruhr include Christoph Klessmann, Polnische Bergarbeitern im Ruhrgebiet, 1870-1945: Soziale Integration und nationale Subkultur einer Minderheit in der deutschen Industriegesellschaft (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1978); Valentina-Maria Stefanski, Zum Prozess der Emanzipation und Integration von Aussenseitern: Polnische Arbeitsmigranten im Ruhrgebiet (Dortmund: Forschungsstelle Ostmitteleuropa, 1984); John Kulczycki, The Foreign Worker and the German Labor Movement: Xenophobia and Solidarity in the Coal Fields of the Ruhr, 1871-1914 (Providence: Berg Publishers, 1994); and Susanne Peters-Schildingen, “Schmelztiegel”Ruhrgebiet: Die Geschichte der Zuwanderung am Beispiel Herne bis 1945 (Klartext: Essen, 1997).

3  Major studies proposing a reevaluation of the Sonderweg include David Blackbourn and Geoff Eley, The Peculiarities of German History: Bourgeois Society and Politics in Nineteenth-Century Germany (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984); Jonathan Sperber, The Kaiser’s Voters: Electors and Elections in Imperial Germany (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997); and Margaret Lavinia Anderson, Practicing Democracy: Elections and Political Culture in Imperial Germany (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

4  In the Ruhr, for example, traditions of employer paternalism and the Knappschaft arguably contributed more to alleviating social inequality and regulating political behavior than transformations wrought by the marketplace.

5  The influence of Niall Ferguson, The Pity of War (London: Allen Lane, 1998) is evident in Grant’s views on German culpability for World War I.  Ferguson was also one of the author’s examiners at Oxford.  See also Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992).

6  Among the limited number of works, see Rene del Fabbro, Transalpini: Italienische Arbeiterwanderung nach Sueddeutschland im Kaiserreich, 1870-1918 (Osnabrück: Rasch, 1996); and Luciano Trincia, Migration und Diaspora: Katholische Kirche und italienische Arbeitswanderung nach Deutschland und in die Schweiz vor dem Ersten Weltkrieg (Freiburg: Lambertus, 1998).

Brian McCook is Senior Lecturer in History at the School of Cultural Studies of Leeds Metropolitan University.  This review was first published by H-German (August, 2009) under a Creative Commons license.