The Determinants of International Migration in Early Modern Europe
4 July 2017
by Alexander Klein and Jelle van Lottum, discussion paper KDPE 1710, June 2017.
Migration was a common feature of pre-industrial societies. Because the vast majority of migrations took place within the confines of a country, a province or even a parish, in most cases such moves occurred over relatively short distances. However, long-distance migrations, involving moves of hundreds of kilometres or more, often of individuals entering foreign territories, were hardly rare (Page Moch 2003; Manning 2005; Van Lottum 2007; Bade et al. 2013). Recent estimates show that international mobility levels increased strongly after the medieval period, peaking in the late seventeenth century. In the latter half of the seventeenth century an estimated 8 percent of European individuals (residents of Russia excluded) could be considered an international migrant (Lucassen and Lucassen 2009). These numbers were surpassed only during the mass migrations to the New World in the nineteenth century (Hatton and Williamson 1998). Traditionally, studies on early modern international migration focus on two groups in particular: refugees and elite migrant groups (or individuals from them). Notwithstanding the substantial cultural and economic importance of these migrant groups, in reality they constituted only a fraction of Europe's internationally mobile population (Lucassen 2012).
This paper offers the first multivariate regression study of international migration 'common
men and women' in pre-industrial Europe. Using unique eighteenth-century data about
maritime workers, we created a data set of migration flows among European countries to
examine the role of factors related to geography, population, language, the market and chain
migration in explaining the migration of these workers across countries. We show that among
all factors considered in our multivariate analysis, the geographical characteristics of the
destination countries, size of port towns, and chain migration are among the most robust and
quantitatively the most important factors influencing cross-country migration flows.
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