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Migration in World History

Patterns Of Migration, Governmental Policies, Global Versus Nationalist Perspectives, Bibliography

Migration is a central aspect of human existence. This is evident from the debate about the origins of the human species, which spread, according to the evidence, from Africa across all continents. On the level of ideas and prejudices, this has resulted in racialized debates about white distinctiveness and Afrocentrism. In prehistoric times, some thirty to forty thousand years ago, human beings migrated from the tricontinental Eurasia-Africa across a land bridge into the Americas and across the seas to Australia. Migration meant diversification of cultures and physical features. Whole peoples, but also clans and groups, continued to migrate throughout the millennia. While Asia's population was settled some sixty-five hundred years ago, in Europe whole peoples continued to migrate until some twelve hundred years ago, often moving from east to west. In Africa, the southward spread of sub-Saharan Bantu-speaking peoples continued to even more recent times.

Once the movement of whole peoples came to an end, migration of members of ethnocultural groups and individuals led to genetic and cultural mixing: Manchu moved southward into China; Norsemen (and -women) moved from Scandinavia eastward along the rivers to the Moskva region where they formed the society of the Rus, and westward along the coasts where they settled in Normandy, in parts of the isles later called "British," and, further southward, in Sicily and Palestine; Slavic and Germanic peoples interacted in central Europe; in the Americas the southward movement of First Peoples resulted in a differentiation into major cultural regions and language groups; in the southeast Asian islands, exchanges of population involved sophisticated sea voyaging; and in Africa pastoralists moved into areas of agriculturalists. In customary male-centered thought, such movements have often been interpreted as the expansion of warrior males and subjugation of "lesser"—more correctly, less armed—peoples. Recent genetic scholarship has revised this imagery: Arriving men, dominant as oppressors, had children with local women, and both genetically and culturally women became dominant. In the case of the Anglo-Saxon conquest of the Celtic-settled (British) islands, the Celtic women's genetic heritage and cultural practices have had a stronger impact than the lore of strong Anglo-Saxon men, as later British historians had believed.

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