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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

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

Between 1846 and 1940, more than 50 million Europeans moved to the Americas in one of the largest migrations of human history, emptying out villages and irrevocably changing both their new homes and the ones they left behind. With a keen historical perspective on the most consequential social phenomenon of the twentieth century, Tara Zahra shows how the policies that gave shape to this migration provided the precedent for future events such as the Holocaust, the closing of the Iron Curtain, and the tragedies of ethnic cleansing. In the epilogue, she places the current refugee crisis within the longer history of migration.

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

“Erudite and exciting…[C]ombines analytical depth with an impressive breadth of personal human stories.” — Tony Barber, Financial Times

“Offers a deep, multifaceted understanding of mass migration.” — Hester Vaizey, Times Higher Education

“A meticulous multilayered account of the relationship between physical mobility and political liberty, and the often fleeting manner in which one or the other is restricted out of expediency.” — Benjamin Cunningham, Los Angeles Review of Books

“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

“With a combination of deft historical analysis, sparkling prose, and careful attention to individual stories, both poignant and instructive, The Great Departure is brimming with important and suggestive lessons from the past for thinking about the worldwide dynamics of emigrants and refugees in our own day.” — Norman M. Naimark, Stanford University

“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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