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BOOK REVIEW - Migrations in World History.

Byline: Patrick Manning

This book is a revised and more updated second edition of Migrations in World History in which the author contends that the phenomenon of migration from one place to another is a part of the human psyche which is always in search of more resources, better life styles and more lucrative employment opportunities. He describes early migrations region-wise, examining their traces in terms of people, languages, diseases, crops, technology and ideas. The main argument of the author is that ever since the emergence of the earliest hominids, followed by the evolution and spread of Homo sapiens, migrations began and continue to the present times. He backs his argument with the help of maps and geographical traces. Moreover he divides global migration into four different categories, which are as follows:

Home-community migration


Whole-community migration

Cross-community migration

Manning traces earliest human migration from the African continent (40,000 BP) and then turns attention towards the Eurasian and American regions (40,000 to 15,000 BP); simultaneously he describes human and technological developments which have been a facilitating factor for these global movements. The rest of the chapters are devoted to different aspects such as agricultural development from 15,000 to 5000 BP, development of Commerce (3000 BCE to 500 CE), modes of movement (500 to 1400 CE), exploration of the Oceans (1400 to 1700), the industrial revolution, search for cheap labour and empire building (1700 to 1900) and lure of the bright urban lights (1900 to 2000).

In the first chapter, the author begins by suggesting that the phenomenon of migration" is a very basic aspect of human behaviour. As evidence to support his argument he traces the history of migration from ancient times till contemporary times and consistently upholds that the basic reasons behind the movement of humanity from one place to another have remained unchanged, though the circumstances kept on changing. The early Homo sapiens used to stay away from their clans for several days or even for months at a time to fetch food or other necessities for their respective families. This trend continued in the modern age, for people kept migrating from their homelands to other destinations for similar reasons, with the difference that their journeys are less arduous owing to revolution in transportation. The author has identified global mass migrations and classified them into different categories, in the process also highlighting the social changes brought about by these mass movements.

The second chapter discusses the evolution and development of hominids in particular and refers to the research of renowned geneticists and archaeologists which reveals that hominids lived for several million years before the stone age. Hominids have been classified as Homo habilis, Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis.

This chapter informs the reader that the Homo habilis were able to make stone tools which is why they are known as the tool makers. Homo erectus (who began to migrate in order to colonize new territories, having a more suitable climate and environment) were the first who occupied West and North Africa and even moved beyond the African continent. The remains of Homo erectus confirm their existence dating around 1.5 million years ago. Gradually, they also learnt to make fire; sites in Europe and Africa have hearths, used for cooking and heating purposes. Homo neanderthalensis (Neanderthal man) emerged around 200,000 years ago. Their remains provide us with quite a clear picture of the development of their capacity to think which is reflected in the well-designed hearths and the burial of their dead. Gradually, hominids began to spread towards the eastern hemisphere, though their population remained dense in the African continent.

Hominid's evolution took a crucial turn and the new mature species Homo sapiens" finally emerged. Within the past 200,000 years the social evolution of Homo sapiens also began. Research by geneticists and archeologists confirmed by several scholarly debates has concluded that humanity began in Africa. The African Eve" has been acknowledged as the mother of all humanity.

The third chapter explores how the pre-historic people who used to live in small tribes and clans now learnt to live in comparatively bigger communities. They preferred to live inland but gradually they grew bold enough to live along coastal areas as well. Diminishing or insufficient food resources and harsh climate conditions forced them to migrate. People began to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific in search of temperate regions which required them to develop the means to assist their movement and living. In the first and second waves of migration they mostly occupied Africa, Asia and Australia, but as soon as transportation improved population movement accelerated, hence in the third and fourth waves of migration they spread to two-thirds of Eurasia and the Americas.

The author has divided pre-historic migrations in terms of various periods. In chapter three Peopling Northern Regions, 40,000 to 30,000 BP" Manning has emphasized that Homo sapiens remained in the continents of Africa, Asia and Oceania but later in the period of 30,000 BP they began to spread and occupy Eurasia and North America. However in the second period of migration specified as Old World movements during the last Ice Age, 30,000 to 15,000 BP" the author argues that despite filling of empty spaces it was during the Ice Age that populations tried to adjust in their respective areas and he tries to prove his point by pointing to the existence of eleven major ancient languages.

Then in the third period of migration which he categorizes as migrations to the Americas in 15,000 BP and after" the author states that human migrations to the Americas whether on foot or by boat mainly depended upon the type of resources and shelter available there and with the help of this argument he tries to p rove that the timing of human occupation of North America and northern Eurasia nearly coincide.

In the fourth chapter, the author attributes earlier migrations to the pull of agriculture". Since food is the basic need of human beings, the patterns of migration are closely linked to the emergence and development of agriculture in that particular region. With the help of genetic, linguistic, archaeological and anthropological evidences the author states that agriculture developed in different regions of the world around 15000 BP to 5000 BP, but it was a very long process of development which took thousands of years to acquire a concrete shape. However in the beginning, agriculture mostly involved experimentation with different plants and intensive collection of food. Gradually from 13,000 BP to 10,000 BP, people learnt how to plant and harvest crops and this is how they became farmers, instead of hunter-gatherers. The first half of this chapter focuses on the rise and fall in temperatures and the human response to climate changes and their impact on the development of agriculture.

The second part of this chapter tells us that the later developments in agriculture were merely because of invention and innovation. Be it the history of food production or migration by humans, the availability of water has been most crucial. People in the ancient times preferred to live near rivers and lakes for these facilitated farming, transportation and fishing. Thus it is no coincidence that most ancient civilizations arose around major rivers, such as the Tigris and Euphrates, the Nile and the Indus.

While the fifth chapter surveys all the significant developments which took place during ancient or classical times the author points out that the period beginning from 3000 BCE to 500 CE is usually known as the baseline of the world's history. It was the time when the pace of human development accelerated, agriculture improved, metals began to be used for several purposes and commerce expanded. This was also the time when organized religions arose. It was the time when the ancient civilizations arose. The leading ones in the Mediterranean region were the Sumerian, the Mesopotamian, the Nubian, the Egyptian, the Hellenistic and the Roman. In the east, amongst the earliest civilization was the one that arose around the banks of the Indus River, the Persian and Chinese, the last being remarkable for its sophistication and also because of the fact that it thrived uninterrupted for several thousand years.

This chapter informs the reader of the rare and desirable goods that had been admired by the people of ancient times. Traders used to pass long distances in order to sell goods where they were most in demand and fetched the biggest price. The concept of exchanging goods among communities developed gradually, and beasts of burden like donkeys, horses, camels and water buffaloes began to be used. But the seas and oceans were crossed with different kinds of vessels and ships to transport heavier goods. Thus, sea-faring developed rapidly and became an occupation for many. In those areas that evolved into big market places, there developed a system of housing for travelers and holding of fairs so that traders could display their goods. Those who became experts at selling and buying eventually turned into merchants. Two important results were that ports were built and a functional system of writing evolved to assist in the record keeping of merchants.

In this chapter, the author points that it was in the period starting from 1000 BCE that the commercial revolution' took place, for commerce transformed from informal exchange into formal human interaction. During the era of the commercial revolution different religions and ethical philosophies also emerged and took a concrete shape. The famous religions and ethical philosophies of this period are Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each religion preached about different aspects of life, death, community and destiny. Religions taught about the significance of trade and commerce and also the ethics for conducting it. On the other hand, the relevant research regarding this era also tells us that agriculture began to hinder migration for while agricultural development drew people to migrate to more fertile lands, farmers and their families were often compelled to hold on to their land.

The sixth chapter discusses the different modes of migration, focusing on the period beginning from 500 BCE to 1400 CE. The author informs the reader that during this period migration mostly depended upon three modes of traveling and these were: on foot, on horseback and through boat. After 500 CE, the author points out that Islam appeared and the Arabs who were already established as traders became empire-builders, and traveling by sea or on camels and horses they began to conquer several Indo-European lands which included Spain, Persia, Afghanistan and South-Western India. Large number of Arabs migrated to the conquered territories and that is how Arabic replaced the Egyptian and other Semitic languages. The Arabic language enjoyed great prestige by becoming the language of justice, of religion and of government. Similarly, in order to conquer new lands, the Turks and the Mongols too covered long distances on horses.

In short, from the eleventh till the thirteenth century AD the lands of Western Europe, West Africa, China and several parts of Southeast Asia were ruled by the horsemen.

Manning informs his readers that other than horseback there was another mode of traveling i.e. people used to travel on foot to other more developed communities. One such interesting example of human migration on foot is the emergence of the state known as Tula" which was built in the middle of the tenth century in Central America. Two different kinds of migrants settled in Tula namely the Toltec" previously residents of Zacatecas, five hundred kilometers to the northwest and the Nonoalca" who lived five hundred kilometers to the east along the Caribbean coast.

The third mode of traveling i.e. by boat became widely prevalent in the period beginning from 500 to 1400 CE. These maritime voyages assisted in the development of stronger bonding with other regions of the world. The Vikings are one of the most striking examples of maritime migrants of the first millennium CE; the Vikings in their boats crossed the North Sea from Scandinavia to carry out raids on Britain, the coast of France and the Low Countries. Many went back to their homelands after looting and pillaging those settled in the lands they had raided. The Vikings also had trade and cultural connections with the Romans. Thus by the middle of the nine century the Scandinavian merchants, raiders and settlers provide us enough evidences of the increase in maritime activities. Over all, in the regions of Eurasia, the distant Americas and Africa close regional interaction and exchange of ideas began owing to trade, invasions and extensive migrations.

The seventh chapter tells the reader that the period beginning from the 15th century witnessed the advancement in maritime technology which further facilitated human migration and commercial activities. This period also saw a marked increase in human population. Chinese, Arabs and Western Europeans explored the seas the and oceans which also helped them to improve their navigational techniques. The opening of new sea routes brought both adventures and disasters. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries immigrants were exposed to dreadful diseases which caused death and an overall decline in human population in the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa. We come to know from this chapter that the Indian Ocean became the most cosmopolitan ocean of the world, for the heaviest traffic passed through this ocean for trade and other purposes.

This chapter also explores all the developments related to maritime migration and there are further divisions of periods reflecting the new developments such as explorations and conquests (1400-1600)". This was the period when inter-continental connections saw an unprecedented increase. The conquest of new lands by the different empires followed by their rise and fall led to regional and inter-continental migrations. It was during this period that global migration began, facilitated by trans-oceanic travel. The second division of the period deals with the records of merchants and missionaries (1500-1700)" when in search of different markets, and territories - merchants, missionaries and conquerors traveled regionally and even across continents. Consequently these activities also promoted global migration, international trade and the spread of Christianity and Islam around the world.

The third division of the period families on the move (1550-1750)" deals with the social history of global migration through descriptions of family life and highlights how global migrations affected the structures of the old families and produced new ones. The last division of the period focuses on carrying and borrowing of cultures (1650-1750)" which enlightens the reader on how the process of constant migrations promoted cultural exchanges. It points out how the interaction of people of different cultures gave them the opportunity to learn about each other's traditions and customs, food, textiles and styles of dressing.

The eighth chapter illuminates the changing dynamics of the global economy in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which witnessed an acceleration of migration in the pursuit of economic fulfillment. In this chapter migration has been divided into different categories: for instance forced migration (1700-1850)" when countless people were either enslaved or forced to join indentured labour force and brought to other countries. These unfortunate people were used for back-breaking labour, especially when paid and voluntary labour was scarce. Furthermore the section on migration and identity (1750-1850)" describes how migration actually influences the identities of people, be it individual, ethnic, racial or national identity.

This chapter then deals with the global economy and regional migration in the period 1800 to 1900, highlighting the fact that it was during this period that due to technological advancement mass production by machines of all types of goods began. Goods like textiles, soaps, shoes, agricultural implements, steamships and railroads began to be sold worldwide. Finally, this chapter examines empire-building by the Europeans and migration during the period 1850 to 1930. It describes in detail how trans-Atlantic migration took place in the second half of the nineteenth century, when millions of Europeans left their homelands for better opportunities in North America, particularly the United States. Simultaneously some imperialist powers invaded and annexed several lands in Asia and Africa which eventually resulted in demographic, political and cultural changes. The late nineteenth century witnessed the overlapping changes brought about by imperialism and increased migration.

The author points out that the rate of human migration particularly labour- related migration increased in the nineteenth century, accelerated in the early twentieth century, but gradually began to decline from the 1930s till the 1960s, rising once again in the 1970s. During the first half of the twentieth century the two great world wars took place which forced millions of people to seek refuge in safer territories, mostly those nearest to their homeland. Labour migration and refugee migration together formed a third major type of migration known as Urbanization". This phenomenon expanded the existing cities, formed new cities and suburbs within and altered conditions in rural areas.

The concluding chapter mainly focuses upon the various influences of urbanization on human life. The first section deals with the cultural side of the urban life by focusing on diasporas and their respective cultures in the period between 1880 and 1950. The author contends that during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries the notions of nationhood' and nationalism' became predominant philosophies, but points out that this world is not only about nations. As old and new diasporas crossed the borders of their countries, they carried along with them their cultures from Europe, Asia and Africa, contributing to the shaping of nations on both sides of the Atlantic. People who migrated from Scandinavia, South Asia, China and the Mediterranean countries to say, North America, formed urban diasporas communities.They maintained their identities by preserving some of their culture and traditions, which facilitated the emergence of the truly cosmopolitan culture" in the early twentieth century.

The second part of the chapter focuses on the new types of political conflict, particularly genocide and ethnic cleansing which again highlights the importance of migration and the fact that nationalism has increased with urbanization. The third section studies the impact of urbanization on families, showing how family needs have motivated people to move from the countryside to the cities or from one city to another one. The fourth section highlights the influence of migration on identities in the age of globalization.

The other part of this chapter examines the rise of nations and refugees during the period 1900 to 1980 which also covers World War I and II. This period was the turning point in world migration, for migrants did not move for improving their economic conditions but because of expulsion and oppression. This type of diaspora was now known as refugees". This era was marked by the rise of extreme or exclusivist nationalism where minorities were seen as unwelcome aliens who either had to be expelled or killed on a mass scale. It also saw political polarization in Europe and Asia based on ideology which resulted in large scale decimation of sections of population. A horrifying example of this sort of nationalism resulted in the Holocaust" in Nazi Germany during World War II. In the post-colonial period in Africa and Asia there were the mass killings in Indonesia and Burundi (1965), and Cambodia (1972-1973).

The next section of the chapter deals with the dynamics of families residing in cities (1920-1990) which highlights the phenomenon of large-scale urbanization during the 1990s when over half of the world's population shifted to cities which eventually emptied villages and countryside. By the twentieth century, every country had created its own metropolis. Mega cities having huge populations have emerged in several countries, these include Bombay, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Jakarta, Istanbul, Shanghai, Moscow, New York, Tokyo and London. As empires vanished and industries decentralized, big cities became the centres of population, culture and services.

The concluding part of this book highlights identities in a global age (1970- 2000) which unveils how the new term globalization" gained currency in the 1990s. Globalization has brought about an exponential increase in the inter-connectedness of people and the international community. This has been possible through unprecedented advancement in communication technology and transportation. The last chapter educates us about the existence of global activity over the centuries. This global inter- connectedness and interaction is also present in the political realm. An interesting example is the wave of the student rebellions of 1968 which almost spread around the world. The other example is the oil crisis of 1973- 1974 when the Arab oil producing countries curtailed sales to countries which were sympathetic to Israel. Taking advantage of this situation the non-Arab oil exporting countries decided to raise prices to an unprecedented level. This led to an international economic crisis.

Likewise, the democratization movements of 1989-1992 were also worldwide. Undoubtedly, the world has changed, but one can argue that globalization is nothing new except for the difference that today people are more aware about it due to the advancement in technology and quicker communication.


This book contains nine chapters and has been divided chronologically into sections beginning from 40,000 BP till 2000. It covers almost all aspects of human life including agriculture, commerce, technology, industry and the rise and fall of empires. The author has tried to prove that migrations took place in the pre-historic period by pointing to the existence of different languages, and authenticates his arguments with the help of maps, illustrations and tables. However, the rather strict categorization of time periods in chapters and the further division of chapters into sections devoted to various phases of human development over the centuries is not very convincing. Furthermore, it is more theoretical and less analytical.

In terms of its strengths the book is no doubt based on extensive research. Each section of the chapters provides intricate and concrete details of developments, having logical connection with each other. The flow of their content improves readability and the details are neither confusing nor repetitive. Another laudable feature of this work is that it does not narrate dry and never ending stories, in fact it is a concise piece of work with substantial descriptions and with a logical construction. Regarding the subject matter of the book i.e. the phenomenon of global migration, this book is a complete guide for research students, which is why it is a must read for students of the social sciences and thus strongly recommended.
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Publication:Pakistan Journal of European Studies
Date:Jun 30, 2015
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