Noah Bender

Instrumental Adversaries: Steamships, Agents, and the Political-Economy of Emigration in Western Europe, 1870-1930
Summer 2019

Between the 1840s and the 1940s, nearly 70 million paying customers departed Europe’s shores, meaning that for decades emigrants themselves were the region’s leading export. Though such extraordinary levels of mobility have long been taken for granted as the natural consequence of European overpopulation and the economic development of the Americas, my research suggests that migratory flows were powerfully shaped by the colossal European shipping industry. Never unopposed, however, shipping cartels squared off against agrarian capitalists desperate to arrest the flight off the land as well as their own waning competitiveness on global markets. With a focus on Britain, France, and Germany during the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, I show how some of the world’s largest corporations helped to chisel out the features of our global economy.