WW1 and international migration

The latest contribution to the VoxEU series on the economics of World War I is available here.

9 replies on “WW1 and international migration”

“At Ellis Island, … returnees rushed back to Europe in record numbers.” That’s an arresting fact I didn’t know, but my guess is that it was not mainly an expression of patriotic fervour for “the old country”. There was a major recession in the US in 1914, so I’m guessing that this reverse flow was mostly economically driven through a perceived collapse in economic opportunity in the US and the sudden increase in demand for labour (armed and civilian) among the belligerents.

It would be interesting to know whether the VoxEU series envisages looking at the effects of economic pressures on the poor of Europe to join up. There is a tendency to think just of patriotic enthusiasm, social pressure and conscription as drivers of recruitment. However, certainly in Ireland there is clear pattern of the urban poor being driven to enlist through the carrot of a regular wage and the big stick of food price inflation. Such factors must surely also have been significant in other countries, and perhaps the return to Europe of many migrants provides evidence of this.

“Global migration, overwhelmingly governed by labour markets and family networks before 1914, has not returned since”.

This Keeling piece is worth reading.

At this point it would be better if the community of nations put these German nut jobs alongside there close comparators in ISIS.

Just that the civilized people of the world do not listen to the tiny numbers of racist hate mongerers and just elected again

BBC poll: Germany most popular country in the world


When one looks into the details of the study, the extremely high positive ratings by the normal people in France and England are worth to mention.

In both countries their own present leaders came in only 3rd place in the recent EU elections.

I admit to being surprised by the findings of the Keeling article. I would have thought that if the migration flows to the ‘new worlds’ were excluded, that there would have little other migration at all in the pre 1914 period, (and more non-new-world migration after that).

What is certain is that the economic advance of the East, because of surplus potential labour in those countries, is very unlikely to be accompanied by migration flows to the East. Perhaps the migration flows will be to the West, as the East attempts to sell its produce in the West.

The EU summit is underway in Ypres and in the early months of the First World War, Belgium which was highly urbanised and relied on food imports, was subject to a British blockade while the German army commandeered local provisions.

A 40-year old self-made American mining millionaire living in London, became leader of a group known as the Commission for Relief in Belgium, a non-profit, multinational, non-governmental organization that provided food for more than 9,000,000 Belgian and French civilians trapped behind the front lines.

The American was Herbert Hoover and after Finland became independent following the collapse of Tsarist Russia in 1917, Hoover organised ships to transport food from Denmark and Sweden.

The CRB operated throughout the war and President Wilson asked Hoover, to take charge of food administration amidst the chaos across Europe after the armistice.

John Maynard Keynes wrote in his Economic Consequences of the Peace:

“Mr Hoover was the only man who emerged from the ordeal of Paris with an enhanced reputation. This complex personality with his habitual air of a weary Titan, his eyes starely fixed on the true and essential facts of the European situation, imported into the councils of Paris, when he took part in them, precisely that atmosphere of reality, knowledge, magnanimity and disinterestedness which, if they had been found in other quarters also, would have given us the Good Peace…. “

And so the man who was credited with saving Europe from starvation, would as the 31st US president be destined to be forever linked to the economic failures of the Great Depression and assemblages of human misery.

Michael Hennigan – A British blockade of Belgium in 1914? Try that again.

@ colm mccarthy

Let’s hail some progress!

“The great powers of our time,” Otto von Bismarck, the German chancellor, told a Russian diplomat in 1879, “are like travellers unknown to each other, whom chance has brought together in a carriage. They watch each other and when one of them puts his hand into his pocket, his neighbour gets ready his own revolver, in order to be able to fire the first shot.”

James J. Sheehan, a Stanford University historian, said in his book ‘Where have all the soldiers gone?,’ that between the Peace of Westphalia 1648 when the structures of the nation state in Europe were recognised, “and 1789, the European powers had fought forty-eight wars, some of them, like the Seven Years’ War in the mid-eighteenth century, lasting several years and stretching around the world. Between 1815 and 1914, there were only five wars in Europe involving two great powers; all of them were limited in time and space, and only one of them involved more than two major states.

From the end of the Franco- Prussian War in 1871 until the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, the European states were at peace with one another. This was the longest period without war in European history until it was surpassed toward the end of the twentieth century.”

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