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Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America [Paperback]

by Marianne S. Wokeck
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

April 22, 1999 027101833X 978-0271018331

American historians have long been fascinated by the "peopling" of North America in the seventeenth century. Who were the immigrants, and how and why did they make their way across the ocean? Most of the attention, however, has been devoted to British immigrants who came as free people or as indentured servants (primarily to New England and the Chesapeake) and to Africans who were forced to come as slaves. Trade in Strangers focuses on the eighteenth century, when new immigrants began to flood the colonies at an unprecedented rate. Most of these immigrants were German and Irish, and they were coming primarily to the middle colonies via an increasingly sophisticated form of transport.

Wokeck shows how first the German system of immigration, and then the Irish system, evolved from earlier, haphazard forms into modern mass transoceanic migration. At the center of this development were merchants on both sides of the Atlantic who organized a business that enabled them to make profitable use of underutilized cargo space on ships bound from Europe to the British North American colonies. This trade offered German and Irish immigrants transatlantic passage on terms that allowed even people of little and modest means to pursue opportunities that beckoned in the New World.

Trade in Strangers fills an important gap in our knowledge of America's immigration history. The eighteenth-century changes established a model for the better-known mass migrations of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which drew wave after wave of Europeans to the New World in the hope of making a better life than the one they left behind—a story that is familiar to most modern Americans.

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Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America + Elizabeth Murray: A Woman's Pursuit of Independence in Eighteenth-Century America + The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence
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Editorial Reviews


“This monograph will be of interest to specialists in early American history and immigration history.”

—L. Scott Philyaw, History

Trade in Strangers is an important addition to the study of mass migration.”

—Nupur Chaudhuri, International Migration Review

About the Author

Marianne S. Wokeck is Associate Professor of History at Indiana University/Purdue University at Indianapolis. She was previously Associate Editor of The Papers of William Penn and director of the Biographical Dictionary of Pennsylvania Legislators.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penn State University Press (April 22, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 027101833X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0271018331
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #463,064 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fascinating mechanics of early immigration. September 2, 2000
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
How did tens of thousands of Germans and Irish arrive in America before the War for Independence?
How did they decide on the journey? What factors turned their heads westward instead of to the eastern settlement schemes of Prussia, or the Austrian or Russian empires? Where did they get their advice from? Who led the Germans down the Rhine? How were they collected for trans-Atlantic shipment? Which middlemen profited from (or exploited) the "trade in strangers"? What were the costs of their passage? How were they received in the valley of the Delaware?
This scholarly book addresses the earliest trans-Atlantic mass migration to North America - those immigrants from southwestern Germany and northern Ireland who arrived prior to 1775. It answers the above questions and many more.
Our immigrant ancestors didn't just jump on a boat one day and arrive in the New World many weeks later without an entire system of personal and commercial contacts, information flows, and market forces to facilitate their passage. The huge influx of Germans prior to the Revolution followed a very complex chain of immigration which ensured that ships sailing to Philadelphia from ports in Holland carried "Redemptioners" rather than mere ballast. This book is primarily focused on their experiences.
The later and lesser pre-1775 Irish immigration differed significantly from the German experience both in immigrant composition and geographic mix between the northern counties and the southern counties of Ireland. Elements of the both the German immigrant trade and the Irish immigrant trade prior to the Revolution set the pattern for all later migration in the 1800s.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Work on a Much Neglected Subject October 16, 2002
Format:Library Binding
As an amateur genealogist and family researcher I have had many questions on the mechanics of how my ancestors made their voyage from Nassau (Germany) to Pennsylvania in the 18th Century. Most sources skip over these details. However, to understand the challenge they faced, one must know these details. Wokeck has mastered many documentary sources on both sides of the Atlantic to provide the definative answers to such questions. She also explores how these early mass migrations of Germans and Irish provided a model for the later and better known 19th Century migrations. To understand how we became Americans all of use must understand the immigrant experience. That experience began with the subject of this book: the development of the transportation of European migrants into a successful business enterprise. It began small, sporadic, and experimental and became a mass commercial enterprise which was both efficient and profitable. The text and the cited sources are invaluable. I was exhilarated after reading it. It has renewed my enthusiasm for my research at a time it was in the doldrums. Any person with a 'Palatine' ancestry should consider this a 'must read.'
Also recommended: A Tide of Alien Tongues, Marrianne Wokeck (1982)
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably THE authoritative work on the topic - -, March 10, 2007
A comprehensive and detailed account of the heavy migration from German-speaking areas of Central Europe, and from Ireland, during the l8th Century. It is heavy with facts and statistics regarding the above subjects, including many charts, tables, and an appendix of all known German voyages during the period. Professor Wokeck has obviously done a lot of work researching and analyzing all the available information. She has also spent more than a little time establishing new estimates of the numbers of persons involved in the above migrations, estimates that will most likely be considered the most authoritative for many years to come.
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