All of humanity’s history is marked by periodic movements of people, prompted to migrate by a variety of reasons and circumstances, with results ranging from complete success to utter disaster. The author describes fifteen migrations that affected the Western world: Europe and America. The stories are organized according to the varying degree of individual freedom that determined the choice to move: from the absolute lack of freedom that characterizes forced displacements (as in the Soviet Union during World War II) to the opposite case of “free” travel (as in the case of the great transoceanic migrations during which millions of people crossed the Atlantic Ocean towards the United States, between the 19th and 20th centuries). Moving and changing one’s place of residence, physical environment and homeland is a human prerogative: migration can be used or remain dormant for some time… but its potential is and always will be substantial.
Massimo Livi Bacci is professor emeritus at the University of Florence and a member of Italy’s Accademia dei Lincei.