EAUH Conference 2018


Session M08. Immigrants and Refugees in Western European Cities (MA-EM)

Coordinators: Marc Boone (, Denis Menjot (

Questions concerning the phenomenon of immigrants and refugees present in Western European cities have been asked time and again in the course of history and even today they influence greatly public opinion and are put on the agenda of political, economic and social decision makers. To study the reasons that have already in the middle ages and the early modern period pushed people to look for a refuge in order to shape a new and supposedly better future in an urban setting, is therefore not only relevant for historical research as such, but may help to interpret the choices and options our time has to face.
Economic migrants were not only driven away from their homes by the effects of natural disasters, food shortages, economic depression, their religious beliefs or political opinions also could provoke forced or deliberate exile. A correlation between urban demise and the subsequent movements of immigration and/or emigration can frequently be observed throughout Western history. It opens a window on the related aspects of insertion, integration or assimilation of the individuals who may arrive in more or less massive waves and who risk to be subjected to discrimination, marginalization or even ‘ghettoization’ on behalf of other newcomers or of established urban authorities.
This session aims to continue and deepen a subject that has already been debated in many scientific meetings. It has the ambition to tackle this problem in the context of the pre-industrial society on a comparable European scale, and to solicit contributions which integrate different approaches and in doing so to question different categories of sources
The questionnaire we would like to see debated include the following aspects:
- Different modes of integration or of exclusion: professional, social, spatial, cultural, political or juridical and the obstacles one had to overcome in order to be accepted as a full ‘burgher’
- The politics of urban and princely authorities and the tools they used with the purpose to attract or refrain immigration and to facilitate or hinder the insertion of refugees and of newcomers.
- The attitude adopted by established urbanites with regard to the immigrants and the perceptions they cultivate (beliefs, stereotypes, reputations) in this respect, as well as the instruments of welcome.
- The attitude of the immigrants and refugees: between a desire to install one self and integrate and adapt to the existing urban norms, and the wish to cultivate their specificity and identities through the action of associations aimed at maintaining their traditions of origin. In this respect the question of the strategies adopted is crucial: mixed marriages, the acquisition of property etc.
- The input of immigrants and refugees: economic, social, political and or cultural and artistic consequences of their presence. Is their arrival an asset for the city that accepts them?
- The consequences of cultural exchange: multiculturalism an hybridization
Keywords: history; immigrants; refugees