Alongside the long-term migration systems that developed between Europe and the Americas, Atlantic migration history is replete with anomalous events—migration “fevers” that lie outside well-described norms in migratory processes. Prospect theory finds risk-seeking behavior to have been a compelling pre-condition for two instances of such migration fever in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as well as for their subsequent cascade effects, creating a social dynamic of “irrational” migration. Prospect theory provides a testable framework for understanding why and how short-lived migration episodes acquired so much force and intensity and points toward a broader relationship with accepted decision-making structures in migration studies.

Migration, when freely undertaken, is at its heart a decision to leave a known environment for a comparatively unknown (or unfamiliar) destination. At its basic core, it is an exercise in risk taking—or, indeed, choosing not to take a risk. This article integrates prospect theory—a model for decision making under risk—into the analysis of historically significant episodes of migration in the Atlantic World and explores its wider applicability to migration history. It seeks to create a plausible framework that expands the existing tools of migration theory and history, which currently uphold that people are motivated to move toward an increased utility for their labor, and that human networks support their efforts. Existing history and theory agree that the social capital of successfully relocated migrants provides the initial information, subsistence, lodging, and work for subsequent migrants, lowering the potential for failure and increasing potential success. The more developed and mature these networks are, the lower the risks become, leading to high-volume migration between two points. Networks help by lowering risks and the uncertainties involved.1

Both migration theory and historical migration study demonstrate the premise that migration systems attain their greatest volumes of movement when both risk and access barriers are perceived to be low. Yet even when international migration systems attain maturity, and risks and access barriers are low, most people still do not move. From a basic standpoint of income inequality, it is likely that most nineteenth-century European workers—rural, domestic, artisanal, or otherwise—would certainly have attained better pay in the United States. Clearly, however, despite some of the largest-scale and best-developed migration networks in history, the higher returns to labor in North America were not worth the risk, even if well mitigated. In the nineteenth century, most Europeans stayed at home.2

The long history of Atlantic migration has also witnessed situations in which the opposite of these circumstances holds true—sudden, unexpectedly large movements occurring when migration risks were high, network externalities were low, and large-scale emigration occurred in highly condensed timeframes. This contravention to accepted migration systems theory tended to occur when adverse material conditions skewed typical processes. Two of the best-documented and most significant examples were in 1709/10 and 1816/7, when regions of central and west-central Europe suffered extreme weather episodes that followed violent conflicts; in both cases, print and oral information touted migration schemes and routes to North America. The ensuing migration movements were abrupt and strong, within months involving tens of thousands of people, the vast majority of whom had no prior connection with America. These migrants began their journey poorly informed and highly vulnerable, under conditions that clearly were not normal.3

Recent developments in crisis migration theory help to codify migratory responses under such adverse conditions. This literature defines crisis migration as “a situation in which there is a widespread threat to life, physical safety, health, or subsistence that is beyond the coping capacity of individuals and the communities in which they reside.” This movement occurs as a result of an acute event or accumulation of stressors that exceeds what a given individual or community is willing to tolerate, “such that moving away seems preferable to staying put.”4

Although subsistence crises were evident in 1709/10 and 1816/7, many of their elements did not match such dire parameters; the dynamics of subsequent events were too complex to warrant an explanation of the subsequent migration in the simple terms of a reflexive “flight” or a forced migration. When compared, for example, with the Irish famine period from 1845 to 1849 and its concomitant migration—the epitome of extreme material trauma—local mortality rates in the affected areas of 1709/10 and 1816/7 were exceedingly low (indeed, in regions where mortality rates were high, emigration did not occur). In emigration-affected regions, many of the people who decided to leave were financially well off. The conditions may have been extraordinary, but the movements were not typically explained at the time as a result of crisis. Local authorities tended to describe this migratory trend in the language of contagion, as “madness” (“rabies”) or “fever” (“Fieber”)—a sudden irrational groundswell of desire to migrate to America. That language would become common throughout Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries whenever communities or regions suddenly developed large-scale interest in, and departures for, North America.

The events and conditions of 1709/10 and 1816/7 are well studied. Historians’ comprehension of the internal dynamics of these extraordinary episodes, however, has not advanced far beyond the vernacular of fever, wave, and contagion adopted by contemporaries in their accounts. A significant feature of the volume and speed of these movements was that, beyond structural considerations, many people appeared to migrate simply because other people were migrating. Acquiring a better understanding of how and why migration decisions and desires became “contagious” during these years is important. Both migratory events occurred in areas along the upper Rhine and its confluences; German-speaking territories of the Palatinate; Alsace; Switzerland; Baden; and, slightly further east, Württemberg.

Both events were responsible for seeding durable migration networks, an issue of major significance given that German-speaking emigration to North America was arguably to become the largest European trans-Atlantic movement of the eighteenth century, and unequivocally the largest of the nineteenth. The primacy of migration networks in both developing and mature systems of migration encourages greater analysis of their genesis in the largest of North Atlantic movements. Indeed, the study of the networks behind the 1709/10 and 1816/7 events can help to inform migration history and scholarship more broadly. The association between the formation of such durable pioneer networks and initial migration fevers is worthy of close attention.5

Prospect Theory

One reason for the lack of nuanced analysis of historical migration fevers is that migrants’ risk perception is typically limited to two issues—structural imbalance and/or network engagement. Risk perception is rarely related to sudden opportunity costs or to group dynamics at the point of departure. Discussion has historically focused on well-formed forces of “push” (away from poor conditions) and “pull” (toward favorable conditions), and more recently on the networks that facilitate decision making. Among the many theoretical tools that historians have used to explore migration, prospect theory has so far gone unnoticed. Prospect theory examines human decision making under risk, based on the premise that people fear losses more than they value gains. It recognizes that most material decisions weigh possible gains and losses, but that the losses carry greater influence if the prospect of each is equal. However, inherent loss aversion means that when faced with certain losses, people will take risks to avoid them.6

The theory appears to be a good explanation of why, in “normal” periods, few people migrate, despite the utility gains potentially open to them. It also helps to explain why in more extraordinary times, large numbers of people might suddenly decide to move. Employing the basic observations of prospect theory, this article consults the available literature and records for 1709/10 and 1816/7 to explore how, within a framework of risky choices and poor information, the conditions for migration fever in 1709/10 and 1816/7 became established. It then explores how additional dynamics helped to create a behavioral environment that encouraged “contagious” migration decisions. This theoretical approach, alongside other factors, provides a compelling tool for analyzing these historic events whilst posing other interesting questions about the dynamics of migration. Most explicitly, prospect theory can demonstrate not only the pre-conditions for migration fevers, but also the relative effect of mature migration networks.

The core observation of prospect theory, as originally proposed by Kahneman and Tversky, is that people are loss averse, relative to a given reference point, which informs individual decisions about the risk of loss or gain. Historically, the loss of a half-dozen pigs would do far less damage to a wealthy farmer with mixed pastoral herds than would the loss of all six pigs—boar, sow, and piglets—to a subsistence peasant. The two have different reference points. In the same vein, given the choice in a local card game, the rich farmer would not likely gamble that same half-dozen pigs for the chance to win half a dozen more. But he might choose to gamble if he stood to gain twelve pigs. Presented with the same choices, the peasant almost certainly would not take either risk. The prospect of any gains would not outweigh potentially ruinous loss.7

The matter of six or twelve pigs is constant in each case, but the personal reference point of the farmer’s and the peasant’s economic position is what ultimately determines their relative position vis-à-vis the possibility of loss or gain. Conversely, if peasants believed that they were facing the certain loss of all their livestock and had no alternative except to gamble a portion of their land or labor in an attempt to keep it, their willingness to take that risk would seem more likely; the chance to avoid any losses at all is more appealing than the obviously poor choice of enduring certain loss. In this case, loss aversion creates risk seeking, not risk avoidance. Farmers would likely assume the same risk if they stood to lose all their livestock. Mixed choices (of gain versus loss) and poor choices (facing certain losses), therefore, evoke different attitudes and responses to risk, both influenced by loss aversion. These scenarios are crude analogies for the gambles with money and the physical experiments that have shaped prospect theory. Imagined analogies are not necessary to make the point, however. Real examples are available in the historical records about, and interviews of, migrants during 1709/10 and 1816/7 that reveal thousands of people gambling away land and labor for an uncertain outcome perceived to be better than certain loss at home.8

Crisis Conditions

In the winter of 1708/9, the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz), a territory of the Holy Roman Empire, experienced extraordinary weather conditions. In a prolonged period of deep cooling in the northern hemisphere caused by a prolonged sunspot minimum, known as the Maunder Minimum, the winter season marked the lowest of several recent low points in temperature. Comprised of undulating and forested land between the more rugged Black Forest to the south and the Ruhr area to the north, the region was rich with fruit-growing hills and cursed in times of war by the accessibility to the German interior that it offered neighboring France. In the same years that it had suffered due to the Maunder Minimum, it was repeatedly pillaged by French forces during the Nine Years’ War (1688–1697) and War of Spanish Succession (1701–1714).9

These difficulties represented a significant turn from the previous favorable circumstances in the region. After the decimation of the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648), local rulers stimulated re-population of the area from elsewhere in Europe through favorable grants of land and tax exemptions. The next forty years witnessed an abundance of work and of large inheritances passed from generation to generation, as well as population growth. At the same time, regions to the north and south of the Palatinate also produced the first pockets of organized emigration from German Europe to Pennsylvania. In a land used to abundance and conditioned to migratory strategies and opportunities (where news of a new land, the “best poor man’s country” called “Bintzel vannier,” otherwise known as Pennsylvania, had begun to circulate), hardships seemed to be developing into a new norm, capped by the cold of 1709.10

A little more than a century later, the same region once again experienced similar material conditions. The “year without a summer” of 1816 was the latest in a series of wet years and poor harvests in southwestern German regions, which were heavily indebted and exhausted after the Napoleonic Wars (1798–1815). Because the southwestern German states chose to ally with Napoléon Bonaparte, they were spared the sort of physical trauma that they had endured during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The alliance with Napoléon, however, while limiting material devastation, led to extreme postwar hardship. After the wars, local dukes and kings—particularly in Baden and Württemberg, which had swallowed up huge areas of neighboring territory (including much of the Palatinate) during Napoléon’s mediatization—relentlessly pursued funds to pay for expanded government and to recover the war’s expenditures and debts. They leveraged administrative units at the county and parish level, extracting high additional taxes from already over-stressed rural communities under severe financial and subsistence strain. The combination of major tax burdens and excessively high food prices, thanks to failed harvests, created ruinous conditions for many people. Privation and rising prices were exacerbated by the prior depletion of local grain reserves to feed Napoléon’s armies. Extreme weather in 1816 further devastated the first postwar harvest.11

In both 1709 and 1816/7, the most visible and obvious response to these critically difficult conditions were sudden, extensive, and short emigration movements to North America. One obvious logistical reason for it in 1709 was the appearance of a pamphlet in the Palatine region advertising the British American colony of Carolina. Its author, Joshua Kochertal, a local Lutheran clergyman, took fifty of his parishioners to London in 1708 to petition—successfully—the British government for passage to North America to escape French privations. A re-print of the pamphlet promoting Carolina as a refuge that included news of the petition’s success prompted other parishioners to try their luck during the worst months of the winter of 1709. In Rotterdam, at the mouth of the Rhine River, along which the Palatines traveled, a British army officer quickly arranged transports across the English Channel for these “poor Palatines” on empty troop vessels, apparently believing his actions to be consistent with a contemporary British debate about the benefits of foreign labor. The combined words of the pamphlet and actions of the army officer were clear signals that “free” access to American passage and settlement had suddenly emerged.12

The scale of the response astonished contemporaries; more than 13,000 people departed in three months, the majority of whom arrived in London during the spring and summer of 1709. The cordial treatment that Britain afforded to the fifty Palatines who had previously departed, however, turned out to be the exception rather than the rule and did not represent imperial policy. Eventually, most of the emigrants were dispersed across England and Ireland, or they returned home. In the summer of 1710, however, 3,000 of them were sent to New York in a mass-scale indenture scheme to produce naval stores, a scheme that ultimately failed. Most of the Palatines abandoned the planned settlement, drifting away to settle elsewhere in New York and further south in Pennsylvania.13

In 1816, the prospect of open access to North American settlement appears to have emerged once again. Organized migrant transports, originating in Switzerland, had begun to operate between the Upper Rhine and the Netherlands almost as soon as the Napoleonic wars ended. In mid-1816, speculative shipping agents on the same route offered to take migrants to Dutch ports, where America-bound vessels could be sought and boarded. According to local authorities in Baden and Switzerland, a particular group was responsible for arranging this “soul shipment,” the term coined for the transit of passengers shipped to North America on credit arrangements. Emigrants were led to believe that, given the willingness of ships’ captains to board passengers with little or no money, on arrival in the United States, buyers would cover the cost of passage fares in return for their servant labor. This “redemptioner” system (the redeeming of transit costs in America) had become an entrenched element of German–Atlantic migration during the mid-eighteenth century (that is, after 1709). Early, widespread dependence on redemption during 1816 led Swiss authorities at the Swiss consulate in Amsterdam to produce official, binding contracts in December 1816. At that stage, just a short time after initial movements, official witnesses were convinced that free passage (actually, on credit) was a crucial element in migrant strategies.14

In 1709 as well as in 1816/7, authorities took no regulatory steps to direct, control, or stop the flow of people until the migrations had become humanitarian crises months later. In 1709, arriving Palatines had reached such high numbers that make-shift refugee camps outside London began to become a financial and political burden. Only then did authorities issue orders to British officials in Rotterdam to stop German migrants from boarding troop ships. In June 1817, when the overcrowding of destitute migrants in the Netherlands led to widespread begging and disorder, the Dutch authorities, working in conjunction with Prussian authorities in the middle Rhine region, enacted border controls to stop the flow of migrants. By that point, more than 25,000 had departed, 22,000 of them since January alone.15

In both 1709 and 1816/7, the conditions conducive to a large-scale migratory episode were structural, stemming from material stress, and access to migration served as a coping strategy. Moreover, the fact that such access appeared to be free of charge or offered with deferred cost created the impression that the intervening barriers were nearly negligible. On these grounds, the ensuing events make sense. Even in the absence of direct networks, the events were logical outcomes of an interlocking series of structural, social, and commercial influences. However, contemporary testimony shows that the profile of each migration was not a simple reflection of structural circumstances. Although many migrants were poor, a significant number were not. Indeed, many of them had significant wealth, often coming as they did from communities and regions that were unaffected by the prevailing crises.16

The structural context of 1709 and 1816/7 may have provided a pre-disposing canvas for a large-scale migration, but contemporaries were acutely aware that each of these episodes was as much a social phenomenon as a subsistence phenomenon, decisively driven by a self-generating environment of impulsive decision making. It did not matter whether migrants were destitute or financially well-off, whether they had lost the source of their livelihood or simply did not want to forgo their opportunity to reach North America. Contemporaries’ accounts point to a mass migration caused not only by structural conditions but also by psychological and behavioral factors that created a rapidly escalating (contagious) resort to emigration.

Perception of Certain Loss

In 1816/7, just as in 1709, people were hungry. As Mattes Bauer, a local farmer, told a Württemberg official in 1817, “The poverty drives me away.…We’re sustaining ourselves on frozen potatoes which have been lying in the fields since last year.” Georg Rölle, from another Württemberg village, explained to that same official that his family “[couldn’t] live [t]here anymore. I’ve got nothing to eat.” The official, who had stationed himself at a busy transiting point on the River Neckar, described him as “completely impoverished.” In 1709, when applying for his passport, Johan Hetzel said that he could no longer feed his six children. Traveling with him was Valentin Römsbott, a blacksmith, who could no longer afford bread, and Georg Gäberling, a carpenter, who, “even if he labored all day and night at his carpentry work…would not earn enough to feed himself.”17

Subsistence issues were the result of poor weather and other compounding factors. While shortages pushed up the price of consumables in 1817, increased taxation further hit incomes, in many cases leaving household economy untenable. By far, the most common complaint in migrant testimony concerned “prohibitive” and “unbearable” taxes. Moreover, the abnormally cold spell placed a premium on wood, needed for both heating and cooking. Christoph Steinbach from Scheppach, Württemberg, explained to a government official that he was going to America because the village forester beat him across the face when he tried to collect wood (the right of estovers) to fuel his oven, “having no bread in the house for 14 days.” Such were the material complaints in these crises.18

Even though destitution and desperation were common themes in contemporary sources, prospective migrants also gave utterance to wider perceptions of decline, perceived to be irreversible. Tax pressures in 1817, for example, affected not only the impoverished in society but also those who felt that if they did not leave immediately, they would be left with nothing at all. Friederich Bauer told authorities, “I only fear, if I stay any longer, I’ll come completely to the end of my means”—a common expression. Unlike the “completely impoverished” Rölle, Bauer was leaving with 1,000 florin (fl), half of his fortune at the time of his marriage.19

Such declines in monetary wealth between marriage and emigration were commonly avowed, directly aligning with Kahneman’s statement that “being poor, in prospect theory, is living below one’s reference point.” Johann Georg Nothdurft told authorities in 1817 that he had married with 1,500 fl but now had only 500 fl: “[I]n these circumstances I can see no other escape, so long as I’ve still got something left, than to go to America.” Christoph Schaar also considered migration after his wealth had declined from 4,000 fl at the time of marriage to 2,000 fl, reduced by his obligations to support soldiers, another two years of which would reduce him to begging. At the age of fifty-eight, Jakob Klein, who still had 1,000 fl, explained to authorities, “I fear if I don’t go now, I’ll come completely to the end of my means, and won’t be able to.” Two other young men, both also with 1,000 fl, feared losing it all because “there is no hope for improvement.” In 1709, sixty-two migrants interviewed by their district official saw little hope of escaping poverty under the current economic conditions, forcing them to “look for their bread elsewhere.”20

In these clear statements of loss aversion, each individual clearly describes the belief that current circumstances were imposing terminal losses upon them—an impression hardened by local authorities’ routine refusal to grant any assistance or reprieve. Heinrich Fidler told Württemberg authorities in 1817, “Twice we’ve told the town clerk that the pressure and injustice drives people from the country, but it was not recorded.” Johannes Schäufle from Schorndorf complained, “If one of the citizens raises complaints, the complaint is pushed back down.” He further remarked, “If there isn’t a change made soon in Schorndorf, half the town will emigrate.” A prevailing sentiment among migrating individuals was that they could not reverse their current losses unless they left. Their testimony describes material and institutional circumstances that made total loss appear inevitable. Their solution was to embark on a risky voyage to America.21

Wagering on America was initially presented as an option by mercantile networks and interests. In both 1709 and 1816/7, commercial interests emerged locally to offer a solution to the crisis at precisely the right moment. The advertising material for Carolina in 1709, indicating that the British Crown might cover passage to America, was critical to the onset of the movement. In the spring of 1816, commercial networks connecting the Upper Rhine region to the Netherlands and focusing around the Swiss city of Basel, instigated departures from the state of Baden. Recruiting in Württemberg was focused on the River Neckar starting in the spring of the following year. In 1817, Württemberg, the only state with strong existing social links to the United States, offered sources for general information and news about available transportation. In both cases, most people received their information about migratory opportunities from commercial networks endogenous to their area. This advantage, or perceived advantage, accruing from having access to information about migration, could and frequently did serve as a trigger to migration.22

The initial information about America in both 1709 and 1816/7 was imperfect, was difficult to corroborate, and therefore was materially risky. In a situation described as a likelihood of terminal loss, however, information about reaching North America at minimal expense clearly constituted an acceptable risk. Further testimony from officials and migrants reveal a committed attitude toward this risk. Friederich List, who would later become a noted political economist, worked in 1817 as a civil servant and headed a team of investigators in Württemberg tasked with researching the crisis. He remarked that the migrants refused to “believe in the difficulty of the journey and that they [would] be treated like freight.” When one interviewee was warned that the redemptioner system amounted to slavery, he responded that he would “rather be a slave in America, than a citizen in Weinsberg.”23

Faced with certain loss and presented with an uncertain alternative that would mitigate that loss, the 1709 and 1816/7 migrants had become risk-seeking. In 1709, they had little concrete knowledge of the outcome of their actions; in 1817, they ran the risk of submitting to as-yet undefined labor contracts beyond their control. Risk-seeking necessitated risk blindness. If destitution, terminal loss of wealth, and opportunity for a new life were material reasons for departure, then risk seeking had generated conscious ignorance about the risks involved, increasing the propensity to make decisions with otherwise uncertain outcomes. A climate of reference-dependent, risk-seeking behavior begins to explain the conditions for migration “fever” that gripped broad sections of local communities during both episodes.

Cascade Effects

Both the 1709/10 and 1816/7 movements originated with or around individuals who appeared to have credible information about life elsewhere, and, critically, access to elsewhere. Kochertal, the Palatine Lutheran clergyman who wrote the promotional tracts about Carolina in 1709, was a perfect candidate for initiating emigration. Serving several parishes immediately south of Heidelberg, in the Palatinate (and latterly in Württemberg), he had extensive local knowledge and connections. In 1704, on a trip to London, he met John Archdale, the proprietor of the Carolina colony, and agreed to write promotional literature about that colony. Much has been made of Kochertal’s book as the impetus for the 1709 migration, but the significance of the first area to be heavily affected by outward movement—the area around Mannheim and Heidelberg in the immediate vicinity of Kochertal’s personal networks, with its attendant opportunities for departure on the Neckar and Rhine Rivers—is not to be ignored. In these localities where people knew members of the successful first migratory group, the message from Kochertal’s book was that those who followed could expect the same treatment. On this basis, word of propitious, indeed providential, expectations spread throughout the communities involved.24

In 1816, the first individual that the authorities in Baden appear to have questioned about the emigrant-transport scheme was Frei, a river boatman based in the Swiss city of Basel who offered onward transit to connections in the Netherlands. In fact, the first transportation of postwar migrants to Philadelphia arrived from the Swiss cantons in 1816. Among them were members of the Tschudi family, potentially connected to a well-established migrant recruiter of the pre-American Revolutionary era. Early emigration from German lands then involved communities immediately adjacent to the canton of Basel. Just as in 1709, the movement appears to have coalesced around people who were well connected to a broad section of the population and to have had access to an outside world linked to migratory opportunities. Kochertal was linked to his parishioners, the proprietors of Carolina, and, through his actions in 1708, to the British Crown. Frei was a conduit for news of Atlantic shipping, as well as a contact for merchants and tradesmen who traded with communities beyond the river. In Gladwell’s vernacular, these people were “connectors.” They had a foot in different worlds and possessed and exercised wide social influence.25

The fact that the 1709 movement found its original epicenter around Kochertal’s home region and that the 1816/7 movement originally centered around Basel, makes sense logistically but is critically important socially. This sequence reflects the well-understood phenomenon of the movement of a few individuals being able to trigger non-linear outflows of people. One of the principal reasons is that the initial affirmative circumstances create a belief in the credibility of migration information, encouraging others to act on it, regardless of whether the information is accurate or suitable for them or has been tried and tested. As the testimony of people in the 1709 and 1816/7 groups shows, information became subject to a “cascade effect.” For the local populations connected to Kochertal or Frei and his immediate Swiss predecessors, the decision of others to cross a threshold and emigrate successfully would have increased belief in the validity of the information that had supported that action, lowering the perception of the risks involved. As others then crossed that threshold, the information and news of the process spread.26

After initial movements gave credibility to (largely incorrect) information about migration, authorities were also frequently presented with large groups of individuals who had decided to move together, many of them declaring that the movement of others was enough to convince them to leave. In 1709, emigrants from Nassau-Weilburg suggested that they had heard of emigration through “Palatines who had spoken of the migration”; two others said that the idea to emigrate “had come from residents of Hesse-Darmstadt.” Moreover, “None of the respondents reported that he had heard of the emigration and the Queen’s promises more than three weeks earlier. Several had heard of it only in the past week, and one man reported that he had heard of it only the day before.” Twenty-five-year-old Christian Schneider, the youngest of the Nassau-Weilberg group, said only that “everyone was talking of moving to America and that he had resolved to join them.”27

Significantly, in the early eighteenth century, Nassau-Weilburg had not seen great devastation from warring armies, and the religious disputes of the previous two centuries no longer caused serious problems in the region. For many of the emigrating groups, the fear of losing the opportunity to migrate appears to have accelerated their decision. In 1816/7, authorities in Württemberg reported a group of forty individuals from a single community who had arrived at a way station believing that legislation would soon stop them from leaving. The migration movements came to be shaped by group dynamics that drove cascading information and decisions, further encouraged by a desperate feeling of expediency generated by perceptions of certain loss.28

This dynamic had a critical, community-level aspect to its development. The presence or absence of certain types of individuals, and their actions, could have a disproportionate influence on adaptation and migration processes within a given population. In 1817, in the Württemberg village of Ölbronn, fifty-eight people emigrated to the United States in the wake of several Separatists who had left for the same destination twelve years previously. However, nearby Massenbach, which also had a history of emigration to North American, witnessed no emigration in 1817. Climatic conditions in the two villages cannot have been drastically different; in fact, the weather in Ölbronn apparently was mild compared to that in regions further south in Baden. Those who left Ölbronn in 1817 (and a dozen years before) were members of the villages’ most prominent families. Given that climate conditions were ostensibly constant across the communities, the prominence of the individuals who chose to leave Ölbronn must be accounted for in the two villages’ divergent paths during the crisis of 1817. In other words, particular types of individuals within a given group, such as those of higher social standing, may have had a disproportionate influence on the decision to migrate (or not) and the subsequent cascade effects.29

Proof of cascade effects are evident not only in the rapidity and collective nature of migration decisions but also in the reaction that migrants had to the countervailing, and usually correct, information given to them by authorities. In 1817, state investigators in Württemberg acquired a report about the misery of migrants waiting at the port in Amsterdam for credit-based passage, having exhausted all their resources. These people commonly resorted to begging, a practice of serious concern for Dutch authorities. When authorities gathered together departing migrants to give them accurate information, the migrants refused to countenance anything that conflicted with what they had been previously told. List’s admonition that they would be “treated like freight” went unheeded. As a result, hundreds of migrants eventually lost their lives in appalling conditions. Neither the dire prospects of vagrancy and begging, abuse aboard ship, nor servitude in the United States could “bring them back from their decision.” The officials interviewing the group of emigrants from Nassau-Dillenburg in 1709 described them as having “lost their senses.” People had their minds set on Pennsylvania; attempts to turn them back were “useless.” In 1709, the emigrant Johannes Flach admitted that “he did not know anything more [about America] than what had been read to him from [Kochertal’s] book” and Philips Petri that he knew “nothing at all.”30

These first-person statements of cascaded information required, or created, a strong degree of positive ignorance. The migration gamble in which people abandoned perceived terminal losses at home to pursue imperfect, but preferable, alternatives meant rejecting what they knew in favor of that which they did not know and, even more, against error and intuition. What they knew, according to their testimony, was that to remain behind would mean further loss. In such conditions, men and women reached a decision to migrate—often against instinct, logic, and advice.31

This unwillingness to heed both logic and advice when provided by state agencies and actors, alongside the rapid spread of migration decisions, gave rise to contemporaries’ diagnosis that the emigration was a “fever.” The catalyst for this social contagion was an acute decline in living standards, judged against familial and generational reference points, combined with uncertain and therefore risk-laden information. Prospect theory would describe this environment as one in which risk-seeking behavior became a predictable and appropriate form of action. Faced with certain losses, and presented with the gamble of migration, the first individuals to act were willing to sanction a degree of risk blindness, or positive ignorance, and commit to dubious information. The demonstration of risk blindness—the decisive action to migrate—triggered a cascade effect regarding migratory information, lowered the sense of risk to others, and made it easier for others to cross decision-making thresholds. Belief in the validity of the action continued to increase, to a point at which some migrants adopted totally uncritical attitudes toward life-altering decisions. These behavioral and social conditions were inseparable from the material context; together, they determined the speed and scale of the events.32

Conditions in both 1709 and 1816/7 are amenable to prospect theory’s prediction of risk-seeking behavior. The gamble presented to local communities by men like Kochertal and Frei represented an opportunity to arrest perceived terminal losses. In a climate favorable to risk seeking, people were willing to gamble on the risk of emigration. Rudimentary social dynamics then increased the likelihood that others would do so, encouraged by both their own terminally declining circumstances and evidence from their peers that the gamble was acceptable. Risk seeking caused, and subsequently encouraged, risk taking. A cyclical escalation of migration decisions played out until the coping mechanisms of transiting states gave out.

The available evidence from each period indicates that those saturation points appear to have been just as much a function of verifiable, structural boundaries as they were of any unknowable boundary of psychological distribution. Absolute poverty, for example, was a barrier to migration, even when ocean passage was available for free or on credit: It was a long way from land-locked Central Europe to the North Sea, and that journey needed to be financed. Moreover, some communities probably managed material conditions better than others, and in many communities potential triggering individuals may have refrained from making initial migration decisions, preventing cascade. Further empirical research should be able to assess, confirm, or refute each of these propositions.33

Considering Networks, Poor Choices, and Mixed Choices

A decade or two after these episodes, when emigration revisited the affected regions, it was far less intense but far more persistent. This pattern is consistent not only with changed circumstances, but other behavioral indicators in prospect theory. During the 1730s or 1830s, Württemberg, despite its active migration networks, did not undergo crisis conditions. Decline was not so acute or widespread. Poor choices between certain loss or a risky gamble had receded for much of the population, largely replaced with the more mixed choice of abandoning a poor but relatively stable present in favor of a potentially rewarding, but risky, future. Because the environment no longer encouraged a cascading propensity toward risk seeking, migratory information was more inert. Migrant recruiters in 1730s’ and 1830s’ Württemberg did not cause cascading decisions when they brought with them news of opportunity in North America. The volume of recently failed attempts at migration, a lack of “free” access, and the absence of acute loss perception ensured that more appropriate thresholds were in place for decisions about potential returns on migration.34

Recent studies demonstrate that the threshold for returns on migration as a more mixed choice are disproportionately high when compared with more day-to-day decision making. The small-scale financial gambles on which prospect theory is based suggest that in times of mixed speculation, which have clear prospects of both gain and loss, the ratio of gains to losses should still be at least two-to-one before people begin to consider taking any risk. In analyzing modern-day migration systems, de Haas estimates that the rate of return on migration, in terms of prospective income, needs to be somewhere in the order of four- or five-to-one for migration decisions to manifest. Below this point, they tend to recede and cease. Migration is a choice of great implication, not only because it may not be easy to reverse (especially when personal capital resources are expended to achieve it) but also because other forms of capital—close familial relations, community credit, and so on—hang in the balance. Migration may well be subject to particularly strong “endowment effects” (individuals valuing what they have significantly more than what they might gain). Although some of these possessions and relations might be replaceable in the destination, like future income, they remain an uncertainty.35

The broad displacement of poor choices during crisis periods with mixed choices in more stable (but still declining) periods, as displayed by the case of German emigration in the nineteenth century, warrants further exploration within the context of prospect theory and endowment effects. The emigrants who departed German states in the decade or so after the 1709 event and the 1816/7 event left communities that were previously at the epicenter of each crisis. In both periods, returning news from some of those who left was sufficiently positive, and access mechanisms sufficiently open, for migrant networks to develop. For those who did not leave during the crisis, the successful migration of others may well have served as sufficient incentive to cross a decision-making threshold. In standard migration theory, the network externalities at the point of arrival were now higher, lowering the risk for others to follow. Nonetheless, removed from the acute losses of crisis conditions, relatively few people were willing to embark on a new life. From a functional perspective, this development was undoubtedly related to the higher entry barriers to migration (credit or free passage not being available). However, from the early 1830s, transit arrangements were increasingly well organized and refined, as network externalities continued to increase.

For German-American migration, the behavioral predictions of prospect theory encompass the reaction during crisis as well as the subsequent, more subdued reaction to network externalities. A theory suggesting that people are loss-averse, relative to personal reference points, though unless faced with certain loss, value what they already have more than what they might gain, neatly accommodates not only the risk-seeking behavior of crises but also the later contours of structural emigration from the German states.

Whether pertaining to the German southwest in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the Rhineland and Westphalia in the nineteenth century, or East Elbian movement from the mid-nineteenth century onward, the regional and local analysis of the conditions from which German migrants departed consistently focus on structural decline. For all these regions and periods, the historiography describes either a breakdown, or a break in entrenched socio-economic institutions, that led to loss of wealth and declining life choices and conditions. In other words, scholars usually explain the population across the German lands from the eighteenth to the nineteenth century as sinking below their relative reference points of intergenerational wealth transfer at the time when structural migration began to manifest. Under such conditions, a question arises as to whether prospect theory or utility theory offers the better description of the decision-making framework within which people subsequently engaged, or not, with migration networks.36

In a period of general (rather than acute) decline, when localized, long-term strategies (other than migration) might have mitigated or moderated problems, migration became a mixed gamble: People had much to lose if they decided to uproot in order to seek the known positive returns elsewhere. For the majority, the idea of loss-aversion and endowment effects would explain why they remained on the less adventurous side of such a risk-laden decision. However, throughout the historiography, the predominating migrants are those who perceived decline as too entrenched to reverse—those who still faced poor choices because of where they lived or who they were. To them, network externalities offered a stable future, which successful German migrants typically described in terms of sustainable landholding. Poor choices caused strong network engagement; mixed choices did not. Micro- analysis shows that in Württemberg during the 1830s and 1840s, the communities most responsive to migration networks were those with the least elastic local options for arresting decline. Given that emigration was confined to such communities, and despite the utility gains of life in North America being widely communicated by concentrated local networks, the prevailing emigration appears to be one patterned by loss aversion rather than utility gain.37

The continued depression of wealth/status below a given reference point at or near early migration centers caused risk seeking through the conduit of migration networks. However, when decline was less acute structurally or moderated locally, loss aversion and endowment effects prevented most from engaging with emigration. This process is observable across the growth of the migration system. In the late 1840s and early 1850s, when subsistence crises, and accompanying poor choices, revisited broad swathes of the German Confederation, the pull of migration networks began to spread geographically and intensify where already extant.

Only from the late 1860s onward, when social, informational, and infrastructure networks had reduced the risks of emigration to their lowest point in the century did widespread emigration occur in the face of rising incomes and internal-migration alternatives. Yet these latter factors quickly dampened Atlantic migration from the 1880s onward, as prospective income ratios narrowed, though never coming close to parity. At each step in the account of why some emigrants decided to leave, others chose to stay, and the number of migration choices rose and fell, prospect theory offers an explanation of the trade-off between structural conditions and networks that is more nuanced than an explanation based largely on utility gains. At the very least, in the German case, the movement sees a temporal interplay between the two types of explanation; the former has a much stronger effect until the final peak in emigration.38

How suitable is prospect theory for other situations of European emigration during the long nineteenth century? In examining the case for Britain, successive generations of historians have maintained that “only in the impossible world of economic abstractions could the desire to move be conceived of as mere economic opportunity: the threat of a downward spiral in social status and concern over social instability at home, or even family conflict, rather than an overwhelming urge to improve job opportunities might, in the final analysis, prove to be a primary stimulant to emigrant decision-making.”39

The protracted socio-economic crisis and trauma that accompanied Irish emigration in the nineteenth century provides abundant migrant testimony for the interplay between risk seeking, poor choices, and networks to be examined. Although conditions across Central, Eastern, and Southern Europe do not present the same descriptive opportunities, Italy, Habsburg Europe, and the Russian Empire were subject to migration fever in the early 1880s. The onset of emigration from these regions displays the characteristics of cascade effects, but a determination of the extent to which influences of loss aversion or utility gain lay behind subsequently sustained engagement would require extensive structural investigation. In every instance, however, an examination of reference-dependent conditions during the inception and growth curve of migration, alongside migrant testimony, might yield significant information about the dynamics of decision making at given points within the migratory system.



Prospect theory is a compelling theoretical framework for testing both migration fever and sustained emigration. It affords migration historians the opportunity to analyze past events within a framework provided by behavioral as well as classical economics. Thistlethwaite anticipated the cogency of this approach even before behavioral economics had been codified as a theoretical discipline. Prospect theory describes risk-seeking behavior that is consistent with inaugurating and sustaining a climate of migration fever, and, alongside cascade effects, the psychological influences that subsequently weighed heavily on risk-based decisions. Even for the more stable periods that followed such “fevers,” it provides a psychological spectrum with which and in which decisions to leave (risk seeking) and to stay (risk avoidance) were made, enriching the analytical prism through which the decision-making process of migrants tended to pass. Thus, it offers a potential tool, in addition to network theory, that allows behavioral analysis of migration beyond utility, which, by describing only labor/financial maximization as a motivating factor, may not reflect the reality within which real-life decisions were, and continue to be, made.40



As a description of migration, the word risk, which derives from the early Italian risicare meaning to dare, or act, in the face of uncertainty, is particularly apt.


The issues of risk and access barriers were first explored in the early 1960s, analyzed and codified across the fields of sociology and Atlantic migration history. See John S. MacDonald and Leatrice D. MacDonald, “Chain Migration, Ethnic Neighbourhood Formation, and Social Networks,” in Millbank Memorial Fund Quarterly, XXXXII (1964), 82–97; Harold Runblaum and Hans Norman (eds.), From Sweden to America: A History of the Migration (Minneapolis, 1976). Outside of private social relations, see also the highly structured business of social capital in the Atlantic system focused on the immigrant banking sector: Jared N. Day, “Credit, Capital and Community: Informal Banking in Immigrant Communities in the United States, 1880–1914,” Financial History Review, IX (2002), 65–78. During the peak of transatlantic migration (1900–1914), 13% of the population is estimated to have departed from the most demographically prone regions of Europe. Drew Keeling, The Business of Transatlantic Migration (Zurich, 2012), 34.


O’Reilly, “Bridging the Atlantic: Opportunity, Information and Choice in Long-Range German Migration in the Eighteenth Century,” in Walter G. Rödel and Helmut Schmal (eds.), Menschen zwischen zwei Welten: Auswanderung, Ansiedlung, Akkulturation (Trier, 2002), 25–44.


Jane McAdam, “Conceptualising Crisis Migration: A Theoretical Perspective,” in Susan Martin, Sanjula Weerasinghe, and Abbie Taylor (eds.), Humanitarian Crises and Migration: Causes, Consequences and Responses (New York, 2014), 29. See also Anna Lindley, “Exploring Crisis Migration: Concepts & Issues,” in idem (ed.), Crisis and Migration: Critical Perspectives (New York, 2014), 1–29.


German Atlantic emigrants numbered approximately 100,000 in the eighteenth century, potentially larger than previously overestimated Irish emigration, and slightly more than 5,000,000 in the nineteenth century, the largest of any group. For the German/Irish estimate, see Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass-Migration to North America (University Park, 1999); for the nineteenth-century total, Albert Bernhardt Faust, The German Element in the United States (Boston, 1909), 582.


Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision under Risk,” Econometrica, XXXXVII (1979), 263–291. For a collection including that article and other theoretical work, see Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (London, 2011).


Kahneman, Thinking.


See Daniel C. Barberis, “Thirty Years of Prospect Theory in Economics: A Review and Assessment,” Journal of Economic Perspectives, XXVII (2013), 175–176; Kahneman, Thinking, 278–285.


See Anita Bokwa, Danuta Limanowka, and Joanna Wibig, “The Late Maunder Minimum (1675–1715): Climax of the ‘Little Ice Age’ in Europe,” in Philip D. Jones et al. (eds.), History and Climate: Memories of the Future? (New York, 2001), 29–54.


James T. Lemon, The Best Poor Man’s Country: A Geographical Study of Early Southeastern Pennsylvania (Baltimore, 1972). For a source of the re-population, see, for example, the Kraichgau region immediately south of the Palatinate in Karl Diefenbacher, Hans Ulrich Pfister, and Kurt H. Hotz, Schweizer Einwanderer in den Kraichgau nach dem Dreissigjährigen Krieg: mit Ausgewählter Ortsliteratur (Sinsheim, 1983). The movements from north and south of the Palatinate were conducted by religious separatists and radicals who had been attracted to William Penn’s fledgling colony of Pennsylvania, through the direct recruitment of marginal European networks. See Rosalind J. Beiler, “Dissenting Religious Communications Networks and European Migration, 1660–1710,” in Bernard Bailyn and Patricia L. Denault, Soundings in Atlantic History (Cambridge, Mass., 2009), 210–236. Bailyn, The Peopling of British North America (New York, 1986), 39.


See Rüdiger Glaser, Iso Himmelsbach, and Annette Bösmeier, “Climate of Migration? How Climate Triggered Migration from Southwest Germany to North America during the 19th Century, Climate of the Past, XIII (2017), 1573–1592.


Joshua Kochertal, Außführlich- und umständlicher Bericht von der berühmten Landschaft Carolina (Frankfurt am Mäyn, 1709); O’Reilly, “Alluding to Alternatives: Sourcing and Securing Colonists in Eighteenth-Century Germany,” in Claudia Schnurmann and Hartmut Lehmann (eds.), Altantic Understandings: Essays on European and American History in Honor of Hermann Wellenreuther (Hamburg, 2006), 164–165; Philip Otterness, Becoming German: The 1709 Palatine Migration to New York (Ithaca, 2004), 25–27.


For the positive reporting about Pennsylvania by the Palatines that helped to entrench this already well-known destination as a future target for migration, see William Smith, A True and Impartial State of the British & French Colonies in North America (London, 1755), 142; for 1709 migrants of the Mennonite faith returning to the Palatinate in 1714 and inaugurating active networks, Rosalind Beiler, Immigrant & Entrepreneur: The Atlantic World of Caspar Wistar, 1650–1750 (University Park, 2008, 83–85). Many members of the 1710 New York group may have also helped to establish smaller German settlement in New Jersey. See Julius Goebel, Nachdruck aus dem Jahrbuch der Deutsch-Amerikanischen Historischen Gesellschaft von Illinois, 1912—Briefe Deutscher Auswanderer aus dem Jahre 1709 (London, 2017; orig. pub. Chicago, 1912), 5.


Boyd, “The Rhine Exodus of 1816/17 within the Developing German Atlantic World,” Historical Journal, LIX (2016), 99–123; Wokeck, Trade.


O Reilly, “The Naturalization Act of 1709 and the Settlement of Germans in Britain, Ireland and the Colonies,” in Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton (eds.), From Strangers to Citizens: The Integration of Communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1550–1750 (London, 2001), 492–502. The number of people who registered in Baden was 16,321 between January and May and 6,000 in Württemberg between January and June. Numbers for 1816 are not documented, but the estimate for Baden is more than 2,000. More than 11,000 Württembergers also accepted recruiting efforts to settle in Russia. See Boyd, “Rhine Exodus,” 99–100.


By 1710, the famine in central France during the winter of 1709 had caused 600,000 deaths. The fact that it launched no movement demonstrates the significance of perceived exit routes and migration as a viable coping strategy within a social group. See W. Gregory Monahan, Year of Sorrows: The Great Famine of 1709 in Lyon (Columbus, 1993).


See testimonies in Günther Moltmann, Aufbruch nach Amerika: Friederich List und die Auswanderung aus Baden und Württemberg, 1816/17—Dokumentation einer sozialen Bewegung (Tübingen, 1979), 151; Otterness, Becoming German, 32.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 176, 151.


Ibid., 146.


Kahneman, Thinking, 298; Moltmann, Aufbruch, 151, 144, 136, 151; Otterness, Becoming German, 23.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 138, 137.


O’Reilly, “Bridging the Atlantic,” 25–44; Boyd, “Rhine Exodus,” 101–110. Interestingly, emigration to America from Baden proved much more extensive throughout the next year than did that from neighboring Württemberg, which had witnessed many more American departures, as well as multiple extant religious and social networks. The likely reason is the competition from recruiting campaigns in Württemberg, which offered settlement land in Russia (see note 16). Gerhard P. Bassler, “Auswanderungsfreiheit und Auswandererfürsorge in Württemberg 1815–1855: zur Geschichte der südwestdeutschen Massenwanderung nach Nordamerika,” Zeitschrift für Württembergische Landesgeschichte, XXXIII (1974), 129–134.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 140, 150.


O’Reilly, “Working for the Crown: German Migrants and Britain’s Commercial Success in the Early Eighteenth-Century American Colonies,” Journal of Modern European History, XV (2017), 130–156; Otterness, Becoming German, 44.


Boyd, “Rhine Exodus.” The first ship to arrive in Philadelphia was the Unity with more than 300 passengers and no recorded fatalities. Malcom Gladwell, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (London, 2001), 34–56, 38.


Robert McLeman, “Thresholds in Climate Migration,” Population and Environment, XXXIX (2018), 330–331. The cascade effect has had extensive description in the context of migration. See especially Gil Epstein, “Herd and Network Effects in Migration Decision-Making,” Journal of Ethic and Migration Studies, XXXIV (2008), 567–583.


Otterness, Becoming German, 34, 32. These migrant statements fit neatly within Epstein’s behavioral description of information-poor migrants who “may not know all that much about life in a particular location. You observe, however, that other people, who are like you, have recently been favouring this location. That is, you may take the position that so many other people cannot be wrong.” Epstein, “Decision-Making,” 569.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 136; Epstein, “Decision-Making,” 569.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 136; McLeman, “Thresholds,” 332. For lists of community outmigration, see Johannes Haßbacher, Ein Dorf an der Grenze: Chronik von Ölbronn (Ölbronn-Durrn, 1982); Werner Clement, Heimatbuch der Stadt Schwaigern mit Teilorten Massenbach: Stetten a.H und Niederhofen (Schwaigern, 1994). The excellent state of parish records and local histories in the region allows such patterns to be tracked systematically across the region.


Moltmann, Aufbruch, 158, 140; Goebel, Nachdruck, 169, 174; Otterness, Becoming German, 34.


O’Reilly, “Non-Knowledge and Decision Making: The Challenge for the Historian,” in Cornell Zwierlein (ed.), The Dark Side of Knowledge: Histories of Ignorance, 1400–1800 (Boston, 2016), 397–398.


For reference points being experiential rather than quantitative, see Botond Kőszegi and Matthew Rabin, “Reference-Dependent Risk Attitudes,” American Economic Review, LXXXVII (2007), 1048. Kahneman, Thinking, 285.


Parish network analysis using the dense community archives of Württemberg offer, for example, the potential to examine correlation between community prominence and cascade effects further.


The 1709 event was followed by emigration in 1714 and 1717, as well as by a sustained movement that started in the 1730s. After 1816/7, emigration from the German southwest became a sustained phenomenon in 1828.


Hein de Haas, “The Internal Dynamics of Migration Processes: A Theoretical Inquiry,” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, XXXVI (2010), 1598; idem, “Turning the Tide? Why Development Will Not Stop Migration,” Development and Change, XXXVIII (2007), 819–841; Kahneman, Thinking, 292–299.


For pre-migration conditions in the German southwest during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, see Wolfgang von Hippel, Auswanderung aus Südwestdeutschland: Studien zur württembergischen Auswanderung und Auswanderungspolitik im 18. Und 19. Jahrhundert (Stuttgart, 1984), 58–67, 148–205; for pre-migration assessments of the Rhineland in the nineteenth century, Anke Ortlepp, “‘Aus dem Wiedischen Land’: Emigration from the Westerwald to Wisconsin,” in Heike Bungert, Cora Lee Kluge, and Robert C. Ostergren (eds.), Wisconsin German Land and Life (Madison, 2008), 7–56; for rural decline in nineteenth-century Westphalia and Hannover, which became heavily involved in emigration from the 1830s onward, Walter Kamphoefner, The Westfalians, from Germany to Missouri (Princeton, 1987), 12–69; for typical pre-emigration conditions from East Elbia, which became significant from the 1850s onward, Axel Lubinski, Entlassen aus dem Unterthanen Verband: die Amerika-Auswanderung aus Mecklenburg Strelitz im 19. Jahrhundert (Ösnabruck, 1997). Loss of status and intergenerational wealth in western German states was associated with the tight restrictions placed on factor markets by land-owning and craft institutions, which could not accommodate population growth. In East-Elbian regions, these losses accompanied the replacement of feudal structures with free-market agriculture, which rendered the labor of many people superfluous, preventing household formation.


For local agricultural intensification, see David W. Sabean, Property, Production and Family in Neckarhausen, 1700–1870 (New York, 1990), 50–52, 433–451; Niels Grüne, Dorfgesellschaft, Konfikterfahrung, Partizipationskultur: Sozialer Wandel und politische Kommunikation in Landgemeinden der badischen Rheinpfalz (1720–1850) (Stuttgart, 2011), 126–172. Boyd, “The Role of Rural Textile Production in Southwest German Emigration: Württemberg Communities in the Early 19th Century,” Textile History, XXXXVI (2015), 28–49.


In push-pull vernacular, Kamphoefner, writing of the German Northwest in The Westfalians, characterized the emigration as largely “push” until the American Civil War.


Robin Haines, Emigration and the Labouring Poor: Australian Recruitment in Britain and Ireland, 1831–60 (London, 1997), 8–9. Haines cites a lineage of skepticism from Frank Thistlethwaite to Charlotte Erickson to Bernard Bailyn regarding utility theory in migration history, based largely on econometrics and assumptions about “economic man” (287). See especially Thistelthwaite, “Migration from Europe Overseas in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries,” XIe Congrès International des Sciences Historiques, Rapports, V (1960), 32–60; repr. in Rudolph J. Vecoli and Suzanne M. Sinke (eds.), A Century of European Migrations 1830–1930 (Urbana, 1991), 17–45; Erickson, “Explanatory Models in Immigration and Migration Research,” in Ingrid Semmingsen and Per Seyersted (eds.), Scando-Anericana Papers on Scandinavian Emigration to the United States (Oslo, 1980), 19; Bailyn and Barbara DeWolfe, Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution (New York, 1986).


Thistlethwaite, “Migration from Europe Overseas,” 40–43.

Author notes

The research for this article was supported by Cambridge Humanities Research Grant 2016/0119.