Refugees, Exiles, and Émigrés

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REFUGEES, EXILES, AND ÉMIGRÉS. Many of the most important changes of the early modern periodincluding the European discovery of America, the growth of the sovereign nation-state, the Protestant Reformation, and the rise of absolutismled to migrations, both forced and voluntary. The phenomenon of removal and banishment of groups was already widespread during the Middle Ages, as in the case of the expulsion of the Lombards from France in 1268 and of the Jews from England in 1290. It intensified during the early modern period, when the rise of the territorial church and the nation-state spurred a large number of expulsions and migrations. Most significant among these were the 1492 expulsion of the Jews and Muslims from Spain, followed by the expulsion of the Moriscos in the early seventeenth century; the seventeenth-century migration from England to North America of Puritans, Catholics, and Quakers; and the migration of French Huguenots during the Wars of Religion (15621598), and after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Early modern Europeans conceived of church and state as integrally and inevitably united. The rise of the nation-state therefore often led to the exclusionand in many cases expulsionof those who seemed to disrupt this cherished unity.

The dramatic increase in forced and voluntary migration during the early modern period was tied closely to the development of absolutist regimes. The best example of seventeenth-century absolutism is Louis XIV (ruled 16431715), known as le Roi Soleil, or 'the Sun King'. In such regimes as his, absolute sovereignty was invested in the person of the king, who was considered above the law (princeps legibus solutus est); the king's will was in fact identified with the law. The absolutist aspirations of monarchs were compounded by the struggle between Catholics and Protestants, which during the Protestant Reformation grew out of the struggle between centralized regimes and the proponents of traditional, local liberties. During the Reformation in England Henry VIII abolished the local liberties and particular rightsfinancial, political, and socialof the clergy. The same applied to the Huguenots in France. Secular rivalries became inseparable from religious ones, and religious beliefs were closely intermingled with social and political ones. Hence the civil and religious wars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuriesthe French Wars of Religion (15621598) between Catholics and Huguenots; the English Civil War (16421651) between Puritans and Loyalists; and the Thirty Years' War (16181648) between the forces of the Protestant and Catholic Reformations. All of these struggles and conflicts resulted in large numbers of refugees, exiles, and émigrés throughout Europe.

Absolute monarchs pursued policies of une foi, un loi, un roi (one faith, one law, one king), striving for complete social, political, and religious unification of their territories, driving out dissenting religious groups as well as alien ethnic groups who seemed to endanger their efforts at consolidation. The secular authority assumed religious functions and was thus responsible for religious unity, uniformity, and conformity within the realm, as can be seen in Spain after the Reconquista of 1492, in England after Henry VIII's break with Rome in 1534, and in France after the Wars of Religion.

The Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella, after successfully accomplishing the Reconquista (reconquest) of Spain from Muslim rule in 1492, demanded that both Jews and Muslims convert to Christianity and forced those who refused into exile. Accordingly, between 100,000 and 200,000 Jews were forced to leave Spain in 1492. Later, in 16091614, some 275,000 Moriscos, Muslims who had converted to Christianity, were likewise expelledmainly for keeping their Muslim faith in secret. In England the absolutist policy of the Stuart kings, James I (ruled 16031625) and his son Charles I (ruled 16251649), drove some 20,000 Puritans into exile in New England during the 1630s; many Catholics and Quakers also left for North America, where they established, respectively, the colonies of Maryland (1634) and Pennsylvania (1681). Similarly, during the French Wars of Religion about 200,000 Huguenots (Protestants) fled the country; the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 by Louis XIV, which ended toleration of Protestants in France, led to further mass migrations, estimated at between 400,000 and 1 million Huguenots.

Geography had a significant impact on the fates of refugees, exiles, and émigrés in early modern period. Until European explorers reached the Americas, dissenting religious groups faced persecution or even annihilation, as was the case with the Waldenses, who fled to the Piedmontese Alps for shelter from the papal Inquisition and crusade in 1209, or the Albigenses of southern France, against whom the papacy launched a crusade in 12081218. The New World, and especially the English settlements in North America, opened up possibilities for many persecuted Christian movements to maintain their religious faith and practices by going into exile there. Thus Puritans, Catholics, Quakers, and Huguenots, to name only a few, found shelter and refuge in the British colonies in America.

In spite of the terrible agony and suffering on the part of the displaced peoples themselves, migration had a lasting influence on Europe's historical development in the early modern and modern periods. The expulsion of Jews from Spainonce the world's most vibrant Jewish centerled to the development of important Jewish centers in the Netherlands, Germany, Poland, and Italy, as well as in other parts of Europe and the Ottoman empire. The migration of Puritans, Catholics, and Huguenots greatly transformed the European colonial enterprise during the seventeenth century and contributed much to the rise and development of the Atlantic world during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

Equally important, the flight of many dissenting religious groups to colonial British America during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries led to the rise of religious pluralism and eventually to the triumph of religious freedom and liberty in the United States. The religious map of British North America shows how the long struggle over religion in Europe led directly to the migration of wide range of religious groups. While European absolutist regimes did not allow religious freedom, in British North America religious liberty and pluralism became the norm from the outset, as Puritans, Catholics, Quakers, and other religious groups settled there and maintained their religious faith and practices in peace and liberty. This toleration was then enshrined in the constitution of United States, upon their independence from Britain.

Refugees, exiles, and émigrés greatly contributed to the establishment of European culture in countries outside Europe. Their physical displacement thus illuminates the important processes of transfer, diffusion, and accommodation of European culture throughout the world. For the people involved, displacement meant that, with regard to their mother country, their cause was lost; at the same time, they gained the opportunity to transfer their culture to new places, where they would be able to live according to their ideals. Thus, while English Puritan exiles lost the battle for the soul of the English people, in New England they were free to establish their grand vision of a godly, Christian society; similarly, only in Philadelphia were the Quakers able to realize their vision of a society built around "brotherly love." Many other religious and ethnic groups, such as the Huguenots who emigrated to South Africa and colonial America in the seventeenth century and the Shakers in the eighteenth century, had analogous experiences of migration.

See also Absolutism ; British Colonies: North America ; Dissenters, English ; English Civil War and Interregnum ; Huguenots ; Jews and Judaism ; Mobility, Geographic ; Moriscos, Expulsion of (Spain) ; Wars of Religion, French .


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Avihu Zakai