Europe In Xix Century Cultural Studies Essay


The European situation within the 1800s was under the period of colonialism and expansionist spirit. The European countries were trying to establish themselves as the major power of the world, and these most wanted positioning meant a territorial scramble. The colonization of certain lands boosted up nationalistic and cultural rivalries, because the colonized did not want to submit under a regime that was all about enrichment and not about the success to acquire a population agreement or a solid ground to avoid conflicts; many colonies freed peacefully from the oppressive rule, but other areas got their independence in a terribly bloody way.

Undoubtedly, Europeans view America as the greeting side, where a foreign environment could be built; the ideal life that America overproduced was their greatest desire. The image of an immigrant began to be considered as an engine for the working functions of the machine (America), and even though this engine was the smallest and different of all, provided a new force for that machine; however not every American was interested in the growth of a nation built up by foreign migrants and with the passage of time, American discontent provided xenophobic attitudes, immigrant exclusions, political reforms and the deterioration of immigrants’ American Dream.


Throughout XIX Century Europe’s population increased significantly and eased Europe to achieve its wanted supremacy. Some statistics assure that Europe’s population in 1815 was about 200,000,000 and later on reached a total of 460,000,000 people by 1914. The colonial era was building the great empire of the Magna Europa. After 1815 Europe depended of three major factors (political, naval and economic). The political factor was the temporary rise of the four victorious powers of the Napoleonic wars: Britain, Austria, Russia, and Prussia, and their position to redraft Europe’s map. The second factor was Great Britain’s naval supremacy. There was no navy or alliance strong enough to defeat the British. The third factor was the mechanization of industry. (Bruun, 1960, p. 2) European diplomats were not taking into account that the changes they were making would produce, in the continent’s whole population, discontents up till their decisions to desert European soil.

As time went by, most of Europe’s rural economy persisted, despite the introduction of the Industrial Revolution. Life was centered in the local villages; peasants sold their small surpluses and purchased the few essentials they could afford. Class lines were firmly distinguished, with an established upper-class owning most of the land, a growing peasant-proprietor class that was beginning to challenge the upper-class’ authority, and at the bottom level cotters who worked small rented lands and laborers who were hired by the peasant-proprietors. (Bruun, 1960, p. 2)

The image of America as a land of opportunity and equality influenced Europeans’ political thought. They began to acknowledge the relationship between land and democratic institutions; most Europeans saw that both conservatives and liberals agreed that the American working man was better off than the working man in Europe. The liberals’ answer was American democracy; they believed that workers and farmers should have the chance to shape their own destinies, and enjoy the same prosperity of American workers. Meanwhile the conservatives stated that the prosperity in the United States emerged from the cheap land available along the frontiers, and that evidently Europe had none. They insisted in a direct relationship between property and suffrage; in the US nine out of ten citizens owned properties and nine out of ten voted; in Europe one out of ten owned a property and one out of ten voted. Aside from that, conservatives believed that a private land ownership opportunity for everyone would promote a citizenry capable of self-rule and the governmental land control would be diminished. (Billington, 1981, p. 297)


During the mid and late XIX century, the population of the US grew at a striking rate because of the expansion of the industry. Most of the cities’ population grew about 15 million people and maintained that rate the two decades before the 1900s. A great number of immigrants arriving from different parts of the world helped to raise the population within the majority of US’ cities; also a significant number of people from the rural area of America migrated into the cities.

The industrial expansion, population growth, steady economy and the internal and external conflicts of America were some of the aspects that began to shape a new era for the US. Having no political restrictions for immigrants and the great augment of urban areas, began to introduce internal problems for America such as the rapid spread of infectious diseases, increase demands for low price housing caused precarious living conditions and inadequate personal hygiene, no organized sanitary systems, air pollution, mass transit, and with this conditions large populations were affected. "Many of America’s largest urban areas like New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, fell prey to a rash of infectious diseases in the middle and end of the nineteenth century." (Brackemyre, 2012)

During the early 1820s, America felt that the European migration was becoming a threat for them; in response to the situation, an American foreign policy was signed, the Monroe doctrine, which stated America’s non-intervention into European conflicts and that the American territory was no longer a nation for their colonies or alliances. The communication with Europe remained while America began to develop potentially, and later on the Monroe doctrine’s application was modified with the passage of time.

In the period after the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial power. The national market, manufacturing, production, industrial expansion, technological emergences and a prosperous middle class brought an important economic stability. The labor force needed to achieve great industrial productions was based upon farmers, immigrants and some city Americans that also began to built a diverse society. But not everyone was in an economic prosperity throughout this period. Many workers were unemployed at least some parts of a year, and their wages were reasonably low when they worked. This situation led many workers to join labor unions or manifestations of discomfort towards the immigrants with whom they worked. Meanwhile, farmers faced hard times with technology and the increase of production because of the growing competition and the falling prices for farm products. (Library of Congress)



During 1820 and 1924, over 35 to 40 million of Europeans migrated into the United States. This great number of Europeans mostly came from the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, the Nordic countries, and also China (which were later on excluded and severely mistreated). People migrated to the United States from the United Kingdom before the famine of 1815, as farmers, agricultural laborers, artisans, townsmen, tenants and also young women. From Germany because the farmers wanted to become independent and tried to fled from the unpromising peasant life; first emigrated from the south, later from the north and at last from the east of Germany. From France people migrated mostly into Canada. From Italy only 40% of the total Italian emigration (1876 – 1976) originated in the south, 20% from the centre and 40% from the north. From the Netherlands 31% of the immigrants were small farmers from the east and south of the country. From Portugal about the 90% came from the Azores, 68% were illiterate, 88% were unskilled and between the 16 and 25 years. From the Nordic countries mainly young literate peasants emigrated because they were increasingly unsatisfied with the state church and the opportunities at home. (Schrove, 2008)

"The voyage to the Promised Land, in horribly overcrowded emigrant ships, proved to be anything but pleasurable, but though there might be "many inconveniences" in the United States, the Irishman was convinced that he would find no "empty bellies."" (Ziegler, 1953, p. 3) The Irishman was not the only one to over think the fact that America could be his best way out of what seemed and inexorable country life; many other Europeans onset diversity of voyages that enhanced in their minds the reasons why they should undertake a new life in America, although they were pretty much sure that the beginning of a new life was going to be demanding, laborious and uneasy. Some of the factors that contributed the migration of Europeans were United States’ industrialization (job opportunity), better wages, and abundance in land. The lure of American opportunities, perceptions of betterment, possible impacts on American labor intensified their desertion from Europe that was providing precarious living conditions at their homelands, religious or ethnic persecutions, economic difficulties, wars, famines, industrial changes, political arrests and a crushing poverty.

Between 1830s and the outbreak of the American Civil War (1861), 3,5 million immigrants landed at New York’s port, and nearly 1,150 million of that total arrived in the 1840's. Many came from Britain, the Scandinavians with a slowly flow toward the American west, and a great oozed of immigration from Italy and Austro-Hungary; but the great size of this human cargo came from Ireland and Germany. (Ziegler, 1953, p. 3)

Ireland was a conquered country with an alien church, absentee landlords, and crushing economic restrictions imposed by the mother country (Great Britain). For a long time, the people lived on the edge of famine conditions, and a season of "potato rot" forced thousands into starvation and suffering. As a result, hordes of Irishmen were ready to expend the last penny of their resources to secure passage to America. The Irish performed the lowliest and hardest kind of unskilled physical labor, and worked in the construction of American cities, canals and railroads that extended into the west. (Ziegler, 1953, p. 3)

The majority of the Germans who came before the Civil War came primarily for economic reasons and as political refugees after the unsuccessful uprisings of 1830 and 1848. These were men of education and social standing, university graduates, pamphleteers, journalists, professional men, and genuine republicans. Many Germans went west and took up farming. Others who were highly skilled craftsmen found employment at old trades. The intellectuals and political refugees stayed in the cities, publishing newspapers, entered the business or profession of their previous training, or as refugees, who could not find a stable and secure place in a new land, were forgotten by both their old and their new fatherland. (Ziegler, 1953, p. 4)

Unlikely, the Chinese migrated to the United States stimulated by the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California in 1848. By 1854, the Chinese began arriving in San Francisco to seek needed fortunes because economic, social and political conditions for many in China had been worsening. Many became merchants, workers of large mines in the west, and as laborers on the transcontinental railroad and in various factories. Immigration was unrestricted at the time, but most of the Chinese immigrants were seeking prosperity with the intention of taking it back to China. When gold discoveries slowed, the Civil War ended, and the transcontinental railroad was completed, unemployment began rising in the US and mainly in California, where the majority of the Chinese immigrants were still employed. The economic depression deepened in the 1870s, and Chinese laborers were claimed as the cause. These racial tensions encouraged the establishment of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 (federal law that restricted the admission of Chinese immigrants for 15 years) (Chen, 2011)

Besides the life they had to undertake, since the moment they set foot in America, immigrants needed to assimilate their new life and their introduction into a different culture. For most immigrants, the dream to trace down their own life was being transformed by their new home. During the Civil War, many immigrants were forcibly drafted into the army, but only the wealthy enough to pay $300 could avoid the military draft; some Irish workers onset a riot, which end up with a significant number of deaths, because of the injustices with the low paid workers. The mass immigration to the US also brought an alarming political view for foreign immigrants, because Americans feared claims for immigration campaigns or a dissent for nationalism.

Throughout late XIX Century, the federal government began changing the immigration policy, with a reduction in the number of people allowed to enter America; so-called undesirable groups like gypsies, ex-convicts, lunatics, idiots and those unable to take care of themselves. For some considerably part of the American native population the years to come after the great waves of migration (1820s – 1920s) were surrounded by problems of assimilation and some Americans sank among resentment feelings for the foreign masses that poured in the country; most of them joined confrontation groups, attempted to limit the rights of the immigrants, exploited them with low waged work, mistreated them and began to stop their actions when the federal government passed some restrictive laws for immigrants. Due to the situation, in 1837 the US’ Supreme Court encouraged the states to regulate immigration under their police powers, and they established some laws for immigration and its control – the 14th Amendment: Those born or naturalized (free-whites with almost a two-year residency) are citizens with equal protection guaranteed. The creation of the Immigration Restriction League founded in 1894 which sponsored a literacy test to reduce the numbers of immigrants; the test was intended to reduce immigration from eastern and southern European countries, which were the cause of an "alarming number of illiterates, paupers, criminals, and madmen who endangered American character and citizenship". (Schamotta) In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the Immigration Act: 50 cent tax on all immigrants landing at the US ports and makes several categories of immigrants that cannot acquire the citizenship. In 1891 Immigration Act: the US assumes responsibility of processing immigrants as well as deporting them in case of any contagious disease. Some of the laws for immigration changed with the years and others were established with the entrance to the XX century. (Lewis, 2009)

During 1840s and 1850s, the manifestations against immigrants sometimes reached extremes. The nativist xenophobic groups onset violent mobs, street fighting and participations in opposition to the newcomers. They believed that foreign travelers with foreign languages and different political, cultural and social backgrounds could raise problems on their Americanization. Other group was the Know-Nothings, which was an anti-foreign movement of the period before the Civil War. The opposition towards immigrants was also in terms of wages, employment conditions, unjust violent persecutions, brutal attacks and no respect for their rights.


Many Europeans foresaw their lives in America under a freedom, economical, social justice, and multicultural world possibility. The words that Europeans’ desperate cries proclaimed – economy, crushing poverty, ethnicity, unemployment, social injustices, national administration, refugee, old world - new world, opportunity – were able to create the atmosphere that Europe’s peoples were facing. Europeans’ encouragement was more than a journey over a vast ocean, but the spirit to accomplish American dream; this America fever motto is greatly described by many authors, but the approach that describes the term substantially belongs to The Epic of America written by James Truslow Adams:

"(…) that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement (…) a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position." (Adams, 1931, pp. 214-215).

The intention of the European immigrants was to undertake a journey for betterment towards the "New" world, America. The most common causes for the emigration of Europe were the fragmentation of the land, the population pressure, the development of the New world, America’s raising power, their homeland labor force, mine labor, unemployment, lack of opportunities, rapid expansion of the American economy, their extremely low financial resources. (Schrove, 2008) They believed that the great New country was their chance of opportunities, their chance for the so called American Dream.

As a matter of fact, most of the American utopias were written in the 1880s, great artists and musicians exploited their talents all over America; the transatlantic migration definitely brought new and important writers, scientists, genius and symbols of humanity like: Charles Steinmetz (Germany 1889), Nikola Tesla (Serbia 1884), Thomas Cole (England 1818), and many others. (Allen, 1985)

Immigration was becoming a worldwide phenomenon. The movement of peoples from different countries into others clearly began to affect directly both immigrants and natives. The voyaging to America was seen by Europeans as an adventure, others saw it as the link between the old and new world and the possible crossing-bridge to arrive at their beacon of hope. The hard journey for the entrance of their awaited new life would end up at any of the American ports – "The five major U.S. arrival ports for immigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries were: New York, Boston, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New Orleans. New York’s Ellis Island was by far the most commonly used port" (Bein, 2003-2010) – where they were processed, ticketed and assigned to wait for days or even months in order to be shifted into America.

They traveled not only because of their European-wake and adventurous-call, but also because they believed that western America offered a better opportunity for economic and social escalation than the Old World. They had been taught and introduced into this dream-thought by a group of image-makers who announced the frontier as a Land of Promise, where fortunes, equality and new life awaited. They traveled with hope in their hearts and in the propaganda that image-makers promoted; the image-makers were travelers, promoters, and novelists that enlightened the challenging opportunity of leaving Europe for America. They published guidebooks with a variety of authors and editors of "Emigrant Newspapers" which talked about America’s frontier. Their messages found receptive audiences in Europe where political tensions produced by the Napoleonic wars were still unresolved and where the industrialism was emerging, changing the economic and social life of millions of laborers, peasants and farmers. Most Europeans were unstable and were backing out from Europe’s goals (progress, advance, supremacy, growth) because the majority of the nations’ rules and power were failing to save their peoples’ lives.

At the time, the educational propaganda of image-makers released a vision of a better world beyond the seas. "School children told their parents of an unsettled paradise where farms were plentiful and rent low, and where tyrannical landlords and meddlesome tax collectors were unknown." (Billington, 1981, p. 60) The parents found themselves enchanted by those ideas and as they were unable to afford or even read books or newspapers, decided to join "Reading Clubs" (common in Germany and Scandinavia, but present all over the continent) in order to hear about American opportunities. The great listeners of the image-makers became the unhappy peasants; they began to consider their settlement in American soil. The guidebooks were produced with the information that land agents and immigration companies provided with descriptions of the states and territories, specific instructions on land, suggestions on farming techniques, advice on transportation, and pages over pages about America; whether the information was authentic or not, it proved to be outstandingly effective. "In Germany at least 100 guidebooks were published between 1827 and 1865; in Sweden more than 150" (Billington, 1981, p. 62). Some of them were based on authors’ experiences: "I have witnessed the great work of civilization in all its various stages, from the lone cabin to the frontier settler." (Billington, 1981, p. 62) or influential announcements on posters proclaiming: "HOMES FOR ALL! MORE FARMS THAN FARMERS! MORE LANDLORDS THAN TENANTS! WORK FOR ALL WORKERS." (Billington, 1981, p. 65)

The great impact of the astonishing image of the frontier, the Land of Opportunity, was also increased by the promotion of the "American Letters"; this letters consisted on words from relatives or friends about the costs of the land, the wages paid, the conditions of work and their experiences. Some of the messages in guidebooks, immigration newspapers, and "America Letters," were: "Here a young man can soon become a well-to-do farmer if he works hard." "Any man here that will work and save his earnings, and make use of his brains will grow rich."" (Billington, 1981, p. 228)

To sum up, the purpose of the image-makers was to shape the impression of life at the frontier or America, and open up European’s eyes for an accessible dream.

Certainly, America was becoming the land of hope and Europeans not only acknowledged that their homelands were not an option anymore, they understood the needed journey of immigration was attracted by the life America was enlightening, with the vast number of opportunities and a standing Statue of Liberty or the solid-standing figure to enlighten the world, that portrayed the beacon for the newcomers. The poem that is engraved on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal is a touching, encouraging and a strong symbol capable of carrying much or a cultural significance, the nation’s patrimony and a monument that symbolized an idea of unification, refugee, liberty and a welcome-gate for immigrants.


Immigration is an interesting movement of masses, where most of the people share a common goal: Opportunities. Most of European immigrants were convinced that their new preferred destiny was to provide them with a better life. The "New" world, America in XIX Century, was exalted and very well evoked by the American Dream; it is certainly appealing that the poem engraved at the Statue of Liberty, written down by Emma Lazarus, suggests America as the source of opportunities of any kind to guarantee success throughout hard work, but also the words of "Mother of Exiles" can be considered as XIX Century America’s proclamation of a welcoming-nation that was conscious of its capacity to receive great magnitudes of huddled crowds.

Human beings are always trying to achieve new goals, in order to find betterment, success, new horizons, a different lifestyle, etc. Once people become professionals they are not always satisfied with their developments, and are very interested in expanding themselves to acquire more successes in other countries. It is on our genes to move and maintain ourselves on constant movement, and that was not alien to Europeans in XIX Century; they were trying to augment their incomes, health, food, safe- business deals, etc. that Europe was not providing.

Therefore, many immigrants traveled to America satisfied with their choices in some cases but not in some others, because not all immigrants found a place to settle down or had to undertake precarious living until they found an opportunity. The great immigration in the XIX Century brought benefits to America, as the immigrant contribution to Americas’ cultural diversity, and also positive as well as negative aspects; positive as cultural diversity, labor force, demanding jobs, and negative as the high costs for the government to pay for immigrant health insurance, spread of diseases, xenophobic-violent manifestations, etc.

New traditions were brought to America by European immigrants; sources of unknown food (pigs, sheep and cattle) moved westward, the English, Scottish, and Irish immigrants cling strongly to their food traditions and the new ingredients encouraged innovation on American cuisine. Also one of the major dietary changes came from Germans that introduced beer, marinated meats, hamburgers, hot dogs or frankfurter and sour flavors. The modern education system in US was created by Germans, introducing kindergarten-levels, physical education and encouraged the construction of gymnasiums. By 1890, the German tradition of Christmas trees spread all along with the influence of Catholicism brought by Irish; Irish dancing is another tradition and the celebration on March 17th of Saint Patrick’s Day in America. (Miller)

Nowadays, in XXI Century, America is the nation it is because of the diversity that immigration provided and the US government is nowadays debating the laws of immigration. Back in XIX Century, Americans should have questioned themselves up to what extent immigrants sustain the nation. Would Americans be disposed to run the works that immigrants have done since the XIX Century (become a cultivator of lands, janitor, cleaning personal, workman, undertaking low waged works or any job that depends on the immigrant force)? Why did not Europeans migrate to Asia? Maybe Asia had already powerful religions widespread. Many questions could have originated but the main choice for immigrants was America, a well self-sustained power, democratic nation, industrial growth and important augments on the economic sectors of the country.


Adams, J. T. (1931). The Epic of America. Boston: Little Brown and Company.

Allen, L. (1985). LIBERTY The Statue and the American Dream. New York: The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

Bein, J. (2003-2010). Tips for Determining Your Ancestor's Probable Port of Arrival. Recovered the 10 of January of 2013, from For Arrivals at U.S. Ports from Europe 1820-1950s:

Benjamin Munn Ziegler, ed., Immigration: An American Dilemma (Boston: D. C. Heath, 1953):

Brackemyre, T. (13 de August de 2012). US History Scene. Recovered the 12 of January of 2013, from Immigrants, cities, and disease: Immigration and Health concerns in the Late Nineteenth Century America:

Chen, J. (October de 2011). Chinese Immigration to the United States: History, Selectivity and Human Capital. Recovered the 10 of January of 2013, from

Geoffrey Bruun, Nineteenth-Century European Civilization, 1815-1914 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1960):

Glenn, C. L. (s.f.). StateUniversity. Education Encyclopedia. Recovered the 04 of December of 2013, de Immigrant Education - UNITED STATES, INTERNATIONAL:

Jim Cullen, The American Dream: A Short History of an Idea That Shaped a Nation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003):

John R. Commons, Races and Immigrants in America (New York: Macmillan, 1907):

Joseph P. Ferrie, Yankeys Now: Immigrants in the Antebellum United States, 1840-1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999):

Lewis, N. (16 of September of 2009). Close Up Washington D.C. Recovered the 11 of January of 2013, de Immigration Landmarks and Trends in U.S. History:

Library of Congress. (s.f.). Recovered January the 14 of 2013, de American Memory Timeline. Rise of Industrial America, 1876-1900:

Miller, C. A. (s.f.). eHow. Recovered the 29 of January of 2013, de What Items Did German Immigrants Bring to America?:

Marianne S. Wokeck, Trade in Strangers: The Beginnings of Mass Migration to North America (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1999), 221,

Ray Allen Billington, Land of Savagery / Land of Promise: The European Image of the American Frontier in the Nineteenth Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 1981):

Schamotta, J. (s.f.). eHow. Recovered the 13 of January of 2012, de Immigration Problems in the Late 1800s:

Schrove, D. M. (05 of May of 2008). Universiteit Leiden. History of International Migration. Recuperado el 10 de January de 2013, de THE MIGRATION TO NORTH AMERICA:

Timothy J. Hatton and Jeffrey G. Williamson, The Age of Mass Migration: Causes and Economic Impact (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998):