This is a book with many beautiful and sometimes interesting illustrations—which means that the text on a very vast subject is actually quite brief. The book is, moreover, no more than an English version of a popular account by German scholars for German readers; other readers should keep this in mind. As such, it deserves interest. Yet that distinction also explains some of the book’s shortcomings as a general survey and from a Latin Americanist viewpoint.
Out of all German transatlantic migration, from 1847 to 1914, about 89 percent went to the United States and merely a small percentage to Latin America. The share of German emigrants bound for the United States was considerably higher than the European average. For Iberian and Italian emigrants, until at least 1900, Latin America was the natural first choice; 70 percent of all Italian overseas emigrants between 1876 and 1900 went there.
Thus it is not surprising that this book gives the outflow of emigrants to Latin America rather scant attention. Indeed, the chapter on Latin America as a recipient of migrants is little more than a summary of my book Adventurers and Proletarians: The Story of Migrants in Latin America (1985). What is really a pity is that the book hardly incorporates the Latin American experience as such, and that it misses so many opportunities to compare the different migratory currents. At times, the authors also reveal their ignorance about Latin America, as when one of them declares that the “lands” of Spanish America were being “destroyed culturally by Catholic missionaries” (p. 24). Another author asserts that encomiendas were large landed estates (p. 70). In addition, the text mentions the Mexican outflow to the United States of recent decades, but not its economic roots (p. 174).
On the other hand, taking the book as an account mainly of German emigration to the United States and Canada, it makes worthwhile reading for a Latin Americanist, too. It is clearly organized: internal European migration and “its expansion to the global scale”; countries of origin; “The Journey”; countries of immigration; “Migration Processes After World War I: The German and European Experience.” The chapter on the actual process of migration is probably the best one, with many valuable details on the agencies of emigration, internal travel to embarkation points, shipping lines, the reception of migrants, and immigrant aid societies. The chapters on Australia and New Zealand are also quite good. Did any of us know, for example, that between 1870 and 1890 there was a significant migratory movement from New Zealand to Australia (p. 187)? The chapter on Africa, on the other hand, is little more than a “black legend”-type commentary on Germans in Namibia. Nothing on the important flows of migrants over time to South Africa, Kenya, and Angola. The book contains many useful quantitative data and references. But do not trust the statement that the Swedish population between 1815 and 1865 rose by 10 percent yearly (p. 43), or that the proportion of re-emigrants from Brazil from 1800 to 1950 was 20 percent (p. 172). In reality, it was more than twice that.