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The Great Departure

Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World

Tara Zahra (Author, University of Chicago)

Overview | Formats

“A masterpiece of modern history.”—Larry Wolff, author of Inventing Eastern Europe

Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas in one of the largest migrations in human history, irrevocably changing both their new homes and the ones they left behind. As villages emptied and the fear of depopulation ran rampant, anxiety over “American fever” existed alongside the promise of a brighter social and economic future. On both sides of the ocean lives were transformed by these decades of mass departure. Tara Zahra’s sweeping history—with a timely new epilogue on today’s refugee crisis—offers insight into issues of global migration that remain of crucial importance.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • March 2017
  • ISBN 978-0-393-35372-3
  • 5.5 × 8.3 in / 416 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverThe Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World


Endorsements & Reviews

“A perceptive history of migration and eastern Europe.” — Economist

“Provocative….[Zahra] has uncovered a narrative that is complex, multifaceted.” — Julia M. Klein, Chicago Tribune

“Zahra handles this immensely complicated and multidimensional history with remarkable clarity and feeling.” — Robert Levgold, Foreign Affairs

“A significant work of social history bound to please serious readers and scholars. ” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“[An] absorbing and comprehensive history.” — Library Journal

“In this riveting book, Tara Zahra takes the story of immigration that Americans know so well and weaves it into a larger story of emigration that we have long neglected. Full of hope and promise, of desperation and tragedy, it is perhaps the most important story of the twentieth century. With all the drama of a novel and all the nuance of history writing at its best, The Great Departure is a must-read.” — Alison Johnson, Harvard University

“In this spare, deeply researched, and unfailingly analytical book, Tara Zahra frees the great migration of Eastern Europeans to the West from romantic myth and dissects all its human and moral complexities.” — Robert D. Kaplan, of In Europe’s Shadow: A Journey Through Two Cold Wars in Romania and Beyond

“Meticulously researched, The Great Departure shows mass emigration from all sides, including individual stories of poverty and maltreatment—but also positive changes that emigration brought to women. This book is equally relevant for Americans, showing why and how many of their ancestors left their countries, and for Europeans confronted with an unprecedented wave of immigrants today.” — Slavenka Drakulic, author of A Guided Tour through the Museum of Communism

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