160 Pages
115 x 173 mm
Pub date
Jun 2011
Very Short Introductions


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  • Brings together white European immigration with Latin American and Asian immigration.
  • Covers all three major waves of immigration.

Americans have come from every corner of the globe, and they have been brought together by a variety of historical processes—conquest, colonialism, the slave trade, territorial acquisition, and voluntary immigration. A thoughtful look at immigration, anti-immigration sentiments, and the motivations and experiences of the migrants themselves, this book offers a compact but wide-ranging look at one of America's hottest issues. 
Historian David Gerber begins by examining the many legal efforts to curb immigration and to define who is and is not an American, ranging from the Naturalization Law of 1795 (which applied only to "free-born white persons") to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the reform-minded Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which opened the door to millions of newcomers, the vast majority from Asia and Latin America. The book also looks at immigration from the perspective of the migrant—farmers and industrial workers, mechanics and domestics, highly trained professionals and small-business owners—who willingly pulled up stakes for the promise of a better life. Throughout, the book sheds light on the relationships between race and ethnicity in the life of these groups and in the formation of American society, and it stresses the marked continuities across waves of immigration and across different racial and ethnic groups. 


List of illustrations

Introduction: mass immigration, past and present

Part I The law of immigration and the legal construction of citizenship
1. Unregulated immigration and its opponents from Colonial America to the mid-nineteenth century
2. Regulation and exclusion
3. Removing barriers and debating consequences in the mid-twentieth century

Part II Emigration and immigration: from the international migrants' perspectives
4. Mass population movements and resettlement, 1820–1924
5. Mass population movements and resettlement, 1965 to the present
togglePart III The dialogue of ethnicity and assimilation
6. The widening mainstream
7. The future of assimilation

Further reading

About the author: 

David A. Gerber is Distinguished Professor of History at the University at Buffalo. He is the author of The Making of an American Pluralism and Authors of Their Lives.

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