Migratory flows (16th–19th century)


The Iberian Peninsula, the British Iles, the Kingdom of France and the Ottoman Empire had political frameworks wherein the question of identity assumed varied configurations. The common thread is of a faith diversity that has got to be handled. The most drastic formula applied by civil authorities, with the backing of the religious authorities, is that of eradication ; the pattern that gets closest to that is to be found in Spain and in France. The prerequisites are not exclusively ideological : sociological factors also come into play, namely an asymmetry in the demographic balance of power. The Anglican authority could not have proceeded in the same way in Ireland and this goes also for the Ottomans who must reckon with one third then one quarter of non-Muslims within their empire. However, it remained an option for Lutheran Denmark or the nascent Republic of Turkey going to war with Greece.

The stories kept alive in communal memories are focused on leaving and the causes that lead to it. The new status and everyday life in the host societies are however also deserving of the historian's attention. In three of the cases under review, integration was not immediate. Communal solidarity, specific social practices, the hope of return to a “Promised Land”, a shared victimhood are as many factors that welded the migrants together. The reservations of the host society – including toward people of the same faith, and whose orthodoxy was found wanting – also represent a common strand. The immigrants' economic vitality advanced their lasting admixtion into the hosting realm. But it took, tens, hundreds of years sometimes, for that social identity to absorb most of the other modes of belonging. When lasting traits were preserved, new developments may lead to a fresh migration ; this will be the case for the Jews of the Maghreb and for the Christians who had settled in Egypt.

The case of Catholic Ireland is particular since, within the period of time under review, migratory flows are changeable and affect Protestants as well as Catholics. The establishment of the former, between 1560 and 1720, is loaded with consequences. The provisions of the 1690s Penal Laws have a great deal in common with the dispositions taken by Louis XIV against the Huguenots in 1685. The Plantation policy and the mass arrival of Scottish Presbyterians in Ulster at the end of the 17th century yielded a social model presenting a number of similarities with colonial models. The Protestant Ascendency viewed the Presbyterians as second class citizens, and the Catholics, who remain in their majority tenants and poor farmers, even more so. Starting from the end of the 17th century, society slowly becomes anglicised in a very uneven way. A few well-off Catholics convert and learn English ; however the Catholic gentry remains, for the most part, steadfast in its faith without offering a unified front.

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