The impact of maritime and migration networks on transatlantic labour migration, 18th - 20th centuries

The impact of maritime and migration networks on transatlantic labour migration, 18th - 20th centuries

FWO - Research Community Labour, Labour Relations and Labour Markets in Western Europe, 1500-2000 Ghent University, Department of Contemporary History European University Institute Firenze
From - Until
18.11.2005 - 19.11.2005
Torsten Feys

International Conference
The impact of maritime and migration networks on transatlantic labour migration, 18th - 20th centuries

Improvements in transport and communication technologies and the liberalization of trade internationalised the world economy during the 'long 19th century'. The spectacular growth in the world-wide flows of capital, goods and people was founded on the commercial networks that were formed in the previous centuries. Moreover, new networks were created and ports, with their important merchant communities, formed the nodal points of this global trade system. These geographical shifts reshaped not only the international trade in commodities, but also the long-distance passenger transport and labour migration. States opened their markets for goods and labour and, later on, enacted new regulations and restrictions. The convergence and divergence of labour markets related to the expanding maritime and migration networks on both sides of the Atlantic will be the focus of the conference. The aim of the conference is to bring together both maritime and migration historians, in order to discuss one broad theme: transatlantic labour migration from an integrated perspective.

The dynamics between non-colonial mass-migration movements and commercial maritime networks date back to the 18th century. The German emigration movement to the U.S. was shaped by mercantile ties between Rotterdam and Philadelphia. These ties formed the link between passengers, recruiters, New World employers and land speculators. The accelerating European transatlantic mass-migration after 1815 transformed passenger transportation into an important and growing trade. Competing networks of emigration agents (and their subcontractors) in the major European ports reshaped and redirected the massive flows of emigrants. They were joined by recruiting agents, who were often first or second generation migrants working for industrialists or land speculators from the New World. The emigrants, attracted by jobs, higher wages and land, used these networks to facilitate the crossing. In most cases, they would join kinfolk, fellow workers or fellow villagers who had often paid for their tickets. The growth of major steam shipping companies meant that the crossing time was drastically shortened. Steam shipping and the invention of the electric telegraph narrowed the gap between labour markets in the Old and New World. Protests from nationalist movements and labour unions in the U.S, the implementation of the Quota Act, as well as state restrictions in Canada and South America, brought an end to an era of unregulated transatlantic mass migration.

We invite paper proposals that explore one or more the following themes:

1) What was the relationship between the competing networks of recruiting agents, emigrant agents, consuls, shipping companies, railroad companies and ports? How did these actors link the labour markets of the New World with potential chain migration networks in the Old World? How were these networks interconnected? How was the flow of information and how was migration redirected by the dynamics of collaboration or competition of these networks? What impact did the rise of major passenger steam lines have on the organization and the direction of these networks? In what way did these formal networks of long distance migration compete or co-exist with informal networks of regional and inter-regional migrations?

2) What was the impact of maritime and migration networks on the labour markets? What was the position or policy of governments and private pressure groups (such as labour unions)? Why was free-trade replaced by a more strictly regulated migration policy? How did commercial groups and networks react to this?

3) Is it possible to view the increasing number of state regulations on migration from the late 19th century onwards as an adaptation to the new needs of the international labour market? How did these regulations generate new formal migration networks as well as illegal networks of human trafficking that bypassed the migration laws? Can these changes be understood within a broader time perspective, stressing structural changes in the world-system in the 19th and centuries?

The conference outline is meant to be broad enough to explore the transnational dimensions of interconnecting maritime and migration networks. But at the same time, the theme is specific enough to focus on the different actors in the story: states, agents, companies and the migrants themselves.

Participants are invited to submit a proposal of 1-2 pages indicating the scope, nature and approach of their intended papers, together with a summary of their CV. Proposals in English should reach the organizing committee by 15 April 2005. Notice will be given by 15 May 2005. Papers are due by 15 October 2005, in order to distribute them in advance. Travel and hotel costs of the participants will be reimbursed.

Organising committee:
European Institute Firenze: prof. G. Haupt, drs. T. Feys.
Ghent University: prof. E. Vanhaute, dr. S. Vanfraechem, drs. S. Hoste.

Applications and requests for more information should be sent to:

The European University Institute
Torsten Feys (HEC)
Via dei Roccettini 9
50016 San Domenico de Fiesole (FI)



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Torsten Feys

IUE, Via dei Roccettini9 50016
San Domenico de Fiesole (FI)

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