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Causes and consequences of mass migrations in the late 19th century

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  1. Introducition
  2. Political and economic crisis in Britain
  3. The main causes for emigration from Europe to the New World
  4. The consequences of these mass migrations
  5. Political measures
  6. Conclusion

According to the Times in 1850, at a moment of political and economic crisis in Britain, ?sending poor people to the colonies would end pauperism?. At the beginning of the period we study, economical and social factors are the main explanatory variables for mass migrations across oceans. Mass migrations can be understood as vast movements of people from a country towards another. The late 19th century, between the 1850s and the 1900s, could be seen as an era of mass migrations, since, as far as the world population is concerned, the percentage of migrants was higher than during any other period. Sudden bursts of migrations, such as the Irish one, caused by the Great Famine between 1846 and 1854, during which 1,5 million people left the island, were rather rare.

But a longer movement throughout the last fifty years of the century, notably coming from European countries such as Germany or Italy and going to new parts of British Empire (Australia, Canada, New Zealand) or the United States, was one of the most massive manifestations of globalization. Such a process can be explained by global economical or social factors, which had multiple local effects and encouraged people to often leave the only country they knew. On the other hand, the consequences of mass migrations are to be studied on a global scale, for they changed, if they have not created, the living conditions of entire societies in the New World.

If the core factor of both causes and consequences of mass migrations seems to be economic, it has led to major changes in the social, political and cultural spheres. In a context of global market integration, did mass migrations increase the gap between source and destination countries, or accelerate global convergence? We will see that the economical factors which provoked mass migrations tended to disappear as more and more migrants went overseas, and then how this evolution led to political and social reactions towards a more globalized world.

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