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Capsule Review

The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent

In This Review

The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent
The Unsettling of Europe: How Migration Reshaped a Continent
By Peter Gatrell
Basic Books, 2019, 576 pp. Purchase

This important book puts today’s levels of migration to Europe in historical perspective. Far from being unprecedented, large population movements have been the norm since World War II, after which over 12 million people fled Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. From the 1950s on, Eastern Europeans steadily left the Soviet bloc. In the 1960s, decolonization led millions to head for metropoles in the West, and guest workers came northward to Germany from countries such as Turkey (although the great majority of these Gastarbeiter returned home). The end of the century saw further displacement caused by wars in the former Yugoslavia and waves of economic immigration. The author, a demographic historian, concludes with a dose of idealism: Europe should embrace immigration and diversity, which have made the continent what it is. Yet this seems to ignore political reality. Recent migration rates are the highest Europe has seen since the postwar movement of Germans. The percentage of foreign-born people in France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom is substantially higher than it was decades ago. In a period of low economic growth, European societies are grappling with tricky questions of cultural integration and difference. This book does surprisingly little to illuminate how many governments today face the political pressure to restrict immigration.

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