Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas, irrevocably changing both their new lands and the ones they left behind. Their immigration fostered an idea of the "land of the free", yet more than a third returned home again. In a groundbreaking study, Tara Zahra brilliantly explores the deeper story of this unprecedented movement of people.
As villages emptied, some blamed traffickers in human labor, targeting Jewish emigration agents. Others saw opportunity: to seed colonies of migrants like the Polish community in Argentina or to gain economic advantage from an inflow of foreign currency or to reshape their populations by encouraging the emigration of minorities. These precedents would shape the Holocaust, the closing of the Iron Curtain, and tragedies of ethnic cleansing while also forming notions of social solidarity, human rights, and freedom - whether it be the freedom to move or the freedom to stay home.
"In this riveting book, Tara Zahra takes the story of immigration that Americans know so well and weaves it into a larger story of emigration that we have long neglected. Full of hope and promise of desperation and tragedy, it is perhaps the most important story of the 20th century. With all the drama of a novel and all the nuance of history writing at its best The Great Departure is a must-read." (Alison Johnson, Harvard University)
"With a combination of deft historical analysis sparkling prose and careful attention to individual stories, both poignant and instructive, Tara Zahra systematically deconstructs the myths surrounding emigration escape and deportation from Eastern Europe since the late 19th century. The Great Departure is brimming with important and suggestive lessons from the past for thinking about the worldwide dynamics of emigrants and refugees in our own day." (Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University)
"Meticulously researched, The Great Departure shows mass emigration from all sides including individual stories of poverty and maltreatment - but also positive changes emigration brought to women.... This book is equally relevant for Americans showing why and how many of their ancestors left their countries and for Europeans confronted with an unprecedented wave of immigrants today." (Slavenka Drakulic, author of A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism)
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