American Migration And Settlement, by Brett Griffin
It is a hard thing to give American patterns of migration and settlement the proper degree of coverage. First, there is the matter of the prehistorical migrations that must be taken into account, as well as those migrations that take place off the historical map, so to speak. Does one want to cover the original series of migrations that brought at least three if not more strains of “native” American from Eurasia (and who knows what other places) to North America in the time before we have the historical record of Norse and then other Western European voyages of discovery and then settlement? What about the movement of French speakers from Nova Scotia to Lousiana, or the movement of Sioux and Commanche into imperial territories in the plains, or the Tuscarora from North Carolina to the Iroquois domains? Then of course one has to deal with the question of voluntary and involuntary migrations of slaves and prisoners, indentured servants and industrial workers and the like. None of these are easy to track, and the author has given himself a nearly impossible task in doing justice to this picture of migration and settlement given the narrow scope of this book in terms of only having about a hundred pages to work with when one could easily write several times that without any difficulty whatsoever.
What patterns of migration and settlement does one gain from this particular book? The book is itself part of a series that looks at America as an exceptional nation, and this tends to put some narrow bounds on the sort of migrations and settlements that the author talks about. For example, there is a look at the colonization of North America from 1492 to 1800, most of which occurred during the colonial period when settlement was regulated, intermittently, by the English and then the British government, and it explores the sort of colonial explorations that one would expect (1). After that the author explores western settlement from 1800 to 1877 (2), which involves the move first across the Appalachians and then the settlement of the west and some of the areas in between. After that the author explores the period of immigration and exclusion during the period from 1877 to 1945, during which there was a genuine degree of tension and sometimes hostility towards the social change that was promised by large population changes (3). Finally, the author explores modern migrations in the period after World War II from areas like Asia and Latin America (4), after which there is a chronology, glossary, suggestions for further information, bibliography, index, and information about the author.
Admittedly, this book does not include nearly as much about the migration and settlement of the United States as one would hope. There is simply far too much information to include for this book to deal with the settlement of Oregon country or all of the tensions that were caused by settlement or by the Mormon settlement of Utah or any number of various migratory movements that loom large in regional or personal history but which are viewed as considerably smaller than the massive movements of people into the country as a whole that the book focuses on. One wonders, ultimately, whether viewing America as exceptional in this regard is even worthwhile or true. Migratory patterns and the changes that they cause for societies are matters, after all, that are of great importance to a great many areas, most of them the settler colonies of various European empires but by no means only them, if one looks at the population transfers and migrations and imperialism that has taken place in North Africa, to give but one example. Still, this is certainly a worthwhile introductory book even if there is way more to discover about migrations and settlement in both the United States and abroad that demonstrates these patterns are by no means unusual.