In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Migrations and Diasporas

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Data Sources
  • Theorizing Diasporas
  • Theorizing Migrations
  • Black Atlantic
  • Trade Diasporas

Atlantic History Migrations and Diasporas
Susanne Lachenicht
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 August 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0122


Between 1492 and 1866 millions of people crossed the Atlantic—from Africa’s west coast (from 1500 to 1866, an estimated 12 million people) and from western and central Europe (from 1500 to 1783, an estimated 1.4 million people)—in order to resettle (or be resettled) in the so-called New World. The age of mass migrations of Europeans only started in the 18th century, followed by the immigration of Asians and eastern Europeans, mostly from the 19th century onward. The literature on Atlantic migrations and diasporas is vast. This bibliography is and has to be selective and will provide more recently published materials on Atlantic migrations and diasporas for the early modern period and for the northern Atlantic. More recent research on so-called religious diasporas or the migrations of specific ethnic groups makes evident that attributions such as “religious diaspora” or “German” or “French” can be problematic, as most of these migrating groups were more heterogenous than previous scholarship might have suggested. Nonetheless, this bibliography includes specific sections on various “religious diasporas” in the Atlantic world, German migrations (even if they included Swiss or French people), and the “Black Atlantic” (despite the many creoles among slaves being deported from Africa to the Americas).

General Overviews

The following selection of titles provides an overview of migrations from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. This section should enable students and established scholars to embrace different academic and national perspectives on migrations. Altman and Horn 1991 focuses on various European migrations to the Americas. Bailyn 1986 examines, from an American/British viewpoint, mostly migrations from Britain in the 17th and 18th centuries but also looks at German immigrants in British North America. Bailyn and Morgan 1991 analyzes interethnic relationships between European immigrants, Native Americans, and African Americans during the first British Empire. The perspective of Canny 1994 is western European, whereas Bade, et al. 2007 deals with migrations and well-known diasporic movements from a continental European perspective. Cohen 1995 only touches on pre-1945 Atlantic migrations, whereas Hoerder 2002 has a rather cosmopolitan view of migrations at large. Page-Moch 2003 provides an American perspective on migrations (mostly) within Europe; Wokeck 1999 instead offers a German-American perspective on Atlantic migrations. The authors’ varying viewpoints highlight different perceptions of the importance of different migratory movements for both the countries the immigrants came from and where they went.

  • Altman, Ida, and James Horn, eds. “To Make America: European Emigration in the Early Modern Period. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991.

    Anthology of essays on 16th and 18th century migrations from western and central Europe to the Americas—for example, from Extremadura to Spanish America, (indentured servants) from France to French Canada, from Germany to British North America, and English free migration to the Chesapeake.

  • Bailyn, Bernard. The Peopling of British North America: An Introduction. New York: Knopf, 1986.

    Groundbreaking piece on early modern Atlantic migrations. Excellent book to start with when studying Atlantic migrations. Volume 1 of a series of publications on migrations to North America between 1500 and the Industrial Revolution.

  • Bailyn, Bernard, and Phillip D. Morgan, eds. Strangers within the Realm: Cultural Margins of the First British Empire. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1991.

    Pioneering volume on relations of British and non-British peoples during the first British Empire and their effects on warfare, interimperial relations, colonialism, religion, and law.

  • Bade, Klaus J., Pieter C. Emmer, Leo Lucassen, and Jochen Oltmer, eds. Enzyklopädie Migration in Europa:Vom 17. Jahrhundert bis zur Gegenwart. Paderborn, Germany: Schöningh, 2007.

    Massive compilation of migration movements in and from Europe, with a stark focus on the 19th and 20th centuries. Some entries are problematic, as authors overlooked more recent publications.

  • Canny, Nicholas, ed. Europeans on the Move: Studies on European Migration, 1500–1800. Oxford and New York: Clarendon, 1994.

    Collection of essays on western European migrations in the Atlantic world: Spanish, Dutch, Irish, German, Scottish, English, and Welsh.

  • Cohen, Robin, ed. The Cambridge Survey of World Migration. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

    Only four of the fourteen sections on world migrations deal with the periods prior to 1945. Slightly too “modern” for early modern Atlanticists.

  • Hoerder, Dirk. Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

    Seminal and comprehensive overview of world migrations since the Crusades. Must-read for all scholars concerned with migration studies.

  • Moch, Leslie Page. Moving Europeans: Migration in Western Europe since 1650. 2d ed. Interdisciplinary Studies in History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2003.

    Slightly outdated overview of most important European migrations since 1650. Mainly deals with migrations within Europe during the 19th and 20th centuries.

  • Wokeck, Marianne. Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999.

    Analysis of merchants’ networks, labor systems, and patterns of trade with migrants, predominantly from German-speaking lands, with the last chapter comparing her findings with migrations from Ireland.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.