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Swedish Exodus

Lars Ljungmark. Translated by Kermit B. Westerberg

Publication Year: 1996

"America fever" gripped Sweden in the middle of the nineteenth century, seethed to a peak in 1910, when one-fifth of the world’s Swedes lived in America, cooled during World War I, and chilled to dead ash with the advent of the Great Depression in 1930.

Swedish Exodus, the first English translation and revision of Lars Ljungmark’s Den Stora Utvandringen, recounts more than a century of Swedish emigration, concentrating on such questions as who came to America, how the character of the emigrants changed with each new wave of emigration, what these people did when they reached their adopted country, and how they gradually became Americanized.

Ljungmark’s essential challenge was to capture in a factual account the broad sweep of emigration history. But often he narrows his focus to look closely at those who took part in this mass migration. Through historical records and personal letters, Ljungmark brings many of these people back to life. One young woman, for example, loved her parents, but loved America more: "I never expect to speak to you in this life. . . . Your loving daughter unto death." Like most immigrants, she never expected to return. Another immigrant wrote back seeking a wife: "I wonder how you have it and if you are living. . . . Are you married or unmarried? If you are unmarried, you can have a good home with me."

Ljungmark also focuses closely on some of the leaders: Peter Cassel, a liberal temperance supporter and free-church leader whose community in America prospered; Hans Mattson, a colonel in the Civil War and founder of a colony in Minnesota; Erik Jansson, a book burner, self-proclaimed messiah, and founder of the Bishop Hill Colony; Gustaf Unonius, a student idealist and founder of a Wisconsin colony that faltered.

The story of Swedish immigrants in the United States is the story in miniature of the greatest mass migration in human history, that of thirty-five million Europeans who left their homes to come to America. It is a human story of interest not only to Swedes but to everyone.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press


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pp. c-ii

Title Page

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p. iii-iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv-iv


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p. v-v

List of Illustrations and Figures

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p. vi-vi

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pp. vii-xii

The great migration from Europe brought some 35 million persons to the United States, among them, about 1.25 million Swedes. For a small country like Sweden, the exodus was very significant, and almost every Swedish family had relatives in America. Swedish historians were nonetheless late in turning their attention to this mass movement. One...

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1. They Left for America

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pp. 1-13

Today's Swedes unquestionably are the most Americanized people in Europe. Television, movies, and magazines bring them into constant contact with the American life-style and way of thinking. Swedish school children begin to learn English at the age of ten and continue with the language for at least six...

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2. Group Emigration from Sweden and Stage Migration in the United States

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pp. 14-27

Prior to the first mass emigration wave in 1868, Swedish emigration was largely characterized by movements of distinct groups of people. A number of groups can be mentioned as a means of illustrating this type of emigration. Some of them came from the same village or province, while others were led by a...

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3. Mass Emigration from Sweden

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pp. 28-50

Up to around 1890 the majority of Swedish emigrants came from rural areas and therefore had dose ties to farming. After that the number of urban emigrants, especially those from industrial centers, increased sharply. Statistics show that the ratio between these two emigrant groups during the greater part of...

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4. America for Sale

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pp. 51-56

Two sets of factors were responsible for the development of mass emigration. First were the push factors, represented by the deplorable conditions in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Swedish society. The second were the pull factors, the dreams and promises that America had to offer and that were...

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5. They Sold America

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pp. 57-75

It was only natural that the federal government took an interest in the emigrant traffic. America was a large continent that could be populated only with help from other shores. This was the thrust of the liberal immigration legislation up to World...

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6. Bound for America

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pp. 76-87

The first emigrants who traveled in groups usually sailed directly to America from Sweden. Most of them left from Gothenburg, although others chose Gavle, Soderhamn, or Stockholm as ports of embarkation. Accommodations on board these sailing vessels were primitive to say the least. Passengers...

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7. Who Were They and Where Did They Settle?

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pp. 88-100

As used by the United States Bureau of Statistics, the term "Swedish Americans" designates persons who were born in Sweden and later came to America (first-generatlon immigrants) or persons who were born in this country to Swedish or part Swedish parents (second-generation immigrants). The statistical...

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8. Swedes Become Americans

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pp. 101-125

Before 1850 most Swedish Americans, like the majority of other immigrant nationalities, were strong supporters of the Democratic party, as the Democrats happened to be the most outspoken champions of immigrant interests in this country. The birth of the Republican party in the mid-1850s, however,...

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9. Americanization

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pp. 126-131

Many of America's immigrant groups, including the Swedes, have tended to pride themselves on their rapid assimilation to American life and culture. Researchers have approached the matter from a number of angles, and their findings challenge the validity of these claims. If, as sociologists maintain,...

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10. The Consequences of Emigration in Sweden

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pp. 132-144

A study of the impact emigration had on Swedish society demands attention to a whole range of questions-economic, social, political, cultural, religious, and others. A central question, however, concerns the official attitude toward emigration on the part of Swedish lawmakers and the ruling classes....

Annual Emigration from and Remigration to Sweden 1851-1940

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pp. 145-147


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pp. 148-151

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 152-159


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pp. 160-165

Author Bio

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p. 166-166


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pp. 167-180

Back Cover

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p. bc-bc

E-ISBN-13: 9780809380480
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809320479

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 1996