Italian Emigration


Figure 1.--Images can be highly emotive. It is sometimes difficult to describe just how any particular image touches us and it various from person to person. I find this portrait of an Italian immigranbt about to become a new American particularly powerful. Italins streamed out of Italy in the lae 19th and early 20th centuries. America at first was not the primary destination, but this changed over time. Eventually about 4 million Italians came to America. While many returned, many stayed making Italians one of the most important Anerican immigrant groups.

Italy in the 19th century was one of the poorest countries in Europe. While the industrial revolution began to change northern Italy, economic conditions were still almost feudal in southern Italy and Sicily. The difference between northern and southern Italy was that northern Italy had been goverened by the Austrians (and the French for a brief era during the French Revolution). Southern Italy was ruled by the Spanisgh Hapsburgs. Poor agragrian practices and the land and climate also affected crop yields in southern Italy. Italian emmigration began in the north. Many of these early immigrants went to neighbiring European countries and to South America, especially Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. Later emigration began in even greater numbers from the south. Italians in the second half of the 19th century began a mass exodus to countries with more promising economic opportunites. Southern Italy was almost entirely an agricultural economy, but crop yields were low and few peasants owned land. The primary destination was the United States. Many early Italian emmigrants returned to Italy from America with money and boased of their success, which generated even more emigration. The Italian Government also promoted emmigration, seeing it as a way of improving economic conditions.Emigration was only one response to the economic conditions and over population. The other was colonization.

Italy in the 19th Century

Italy in the 19th century was one of the poorest countries in Europe. While the industrial revolution began to change northern Italy, economic conditions were still almost feudal in southern Italy and Sicily. The difference between northern and southern Italy was that northern Italy had been goverened by the Austrians (and the French for a brief era during the French Revolution). Southern Italy was ruled by the Spanisgh Hapsburgs. Poor agragrian practices and the land and climate also affected crop yields in southern Italy. Ironically most of the emigration from Italy occurred after Italian unification (1861). Here we think that both domestic and internationl factors were involved, as well as technoligal advances, especially improvements in ocean travel. Many of the immigrants that flowed into America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries were from Eastern and central Europe where Russia and Austria-Hungary to varying degress attempted to supress the various ethnic groups within their empires. This was not the case of the Italians.

Regional Emmigration

Italian emmigration began in the north. Later emigration began in even greater numbers from the south. Italians in the second half of the 19th century that began a mass exodus largely came from the economivally depressed south. Southern Italy was almost entirely an agricultural economy, but crop yields were low and few peasants owned land.

Government Policy

The Italian Government promoted emigration, seeing it as a way of improving economic conditions by dealing with what was seen as surplus population. Italian estimsates suggested that 6 million Italians emigrated. I am not sure how the Italian statistics deal with emmigrants who returned or emmigants who migrated multiple times. Of all the major immigrant groups in America, the Italians were the most likely to return to Italy.

Destination

Many of the early Italian immigrants went to neighbiring European countries and to South America, especially Argentina, Brazil, and Uruguay. There was more cultural afinity with the South American countries than largely Protestant North America. Italians in the second half of the 19th century, however, began a mass exodus to countries with more promising economic opportunites. Southern Italy was almost entirely an agricultural economy, but crop yiels were low and few peasants owned land. Italians left for many different countries. The single most important destination was the United States. I am unsure about the impact of Italiam emigrants on other countries, but they had a profound impact on still largely Protestant America.

Colonization

Emigration was only one response to the economic conditions and over population. The other was colonization. Italy obtained colonies in East Africa. The Kingdom of Italy itself was declared in 1861, after Kingdom of Piedmont and Sardinia had annexed Kingdom of Lombardy and Venice (this Kingdom was not independent, but controlled by the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Kingdom of Naples (including all South Italy and Sicily). Rome became Italian only in 1870. Italy was a poor country. Many Italians emigrated to North and South America. The colonial effort was a attempt to share in the partition of Africa. This was bnoth a matter of national pride as well the result of the widly heald opinion that colonies were needed for a healthy economy. Another impotant factor was the desire to obtaon territort that Italiand could settle.






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Created: February 26, 2003
Last updated: 4:59 AM 6/12/2013