When Empires Come Home: Postcolonial Migrations to Europe

History 280U

Spring 2016
Day & Time: 
M 1200-200

Through the lens of migration studies, this course introduces participants to a key aspect of twentieth-century European history: namely, the profound impact that the End of Empire after World War II had on the societies, politics, and cultures of Europe’s colonial powers. Perhaps ironically, the independence of former colonies did not stop the diverse movements of people from Africa and Asia into France, Great Britain, Portugal, Holland, and Italy, but rather increased existing migration flows and created new ones.  These movements both assisted and complicated the ongoing transition from imperial metropoles to post-colonial nation-states, and they are among the most obvious, significant, and conflict-producing legacies of colonialism in Europe.  We will focus on a particular type of these population shifts: the “return migrations” or “decolonization  migrations,” characterized by the movement of white settlers back to the nations from which they or their forebears had come. From the 1940s through the 1970s, between 10 and 14 million individuals abandoned ‘their’ colonies when they became independent and headed for ‘their’ respective colonial centers. The most notorious of these return migrations was that of the approximately one million so-called pieds noirs who crossed the Mediterranean into France when Algeria became independent in 1962. We will cover the Italian, Dutch, and British cases, but will give special attention to the return migrations to France and Portugal, which were the largest and most controversial. The ability to read French and/or Portuguese will be useful, but not required.

Christoph Kalter is a Visiting Assistant Professor from the Free University of Berlin. His research is occupied with the afterlives of empire in Europe. His first book dealt with the interconnection between the rise of the concept of the “Third World” and that of the New Radical Left in France; his current project is on postcolonial migrations to Portugal.