Frequently Asked Questions


First questions here:


1. What is the “business” that is the subject of the book, The Business of Transatlantic Migration between Europe and the United States, 1900-1914

The website title is: “Mass migration as a travel business.” The front cover of the book also reflects that the business of mass migration in the early 20th century was, in the most direct sense, the business of moving people across the Atlantic on large passenger steamships. The book’s introduction elaborates further (pp. xiii, xvi-xviii): “This book focuses on the oceanic crossing. Overland transportation, travel agents, and labor brokers were also important businesses heavily reliant upon migration, but they were not indispensable to it in the way that the Atlantic transit was. It was entirely possible to relocate (for example from a large European port city to a large U.S. port city) without stepping on an inter-city train, or to buy a transatlantic ticket directly from the shipping line, not an agent. Many migrants did so. Most found jobs in America through relatives, not market intermediaries. But, there was no crossing the Atlantic between 1900 and 1914 except on a ship…[The book] is a history of the eleven million Europe-born migrants who made nineteen million ocean crossings on eighteen thousand voyages of several hundred vessels of two dozen steamship lines plying between Europe and the principal ports of the United States of America during the years 1900 to 1914. It analyzes how those migratory passenger movements were operated as a transport business, and how the strategies of the [shipping companies] interacted with the intentions and actions of their migrant customers and of the governmental authorities regulating both.”


2. The “About” page of this website says that “My research has focused on the question of what causes mass migration in the first place. My approach has been to examine how, historically, the migration occurred…” Which is it: why or how?

The book emphasizes causes rather than effects of migration. It addresses causes mainly by seeking to understand how the migration occurred, as a means of ultimately better understanding why it occurred. Looking at how the North Atlantic migration travel business worked, however, also requires looking at the motivations of migrants and the strategies of the shipping companies. So, to a lesser extent, the book also discusses why as means of getting at how. It could thus be described being about both why (causes of migration) and how (ways by which it has occurred).


3. In the Ellis Island era, did people also migrate from the USA to Europe?

About 30% of Europeans who immigrated to the United States between 1900 and 1914 eventually returned to Europe (The Business of Transatlantic Migration, p. 201). But, they migrated back to, or at least towards, where they had originally come from. What about people born in America and raised there by U.S. born parents, who later moved to Europe? Statistics on migration from the U.S. to Europe seem to be all but non-existent, but rough estimates are possible. There are first of all, no known indications of mass movement of low-skilled U.S. labor to work in European industry. Secondly, the known examples of Americans living long term in Europe are from much smaller and/or wealthier groups. e.g., diplomats, artists, intellectuals, etc. Indications (contact here for details) are that during 1900-14 they may have totaled in the rough neighborhood of 20 thousand people, or about one third of one percent as many as migrated from Europe to the U.S. in this period.