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The Borders of Integration

Polish Migrants in Germany and the United States, 1870-1924

Brian McCook

Publication Year: 2011

The issues of immigration and integration are at the forefront of contemporary politics. Yet debates over foreign workers and the desirability of their incorporation into European and American societies too often are discussed without a sense of history. McCook’s examination questions static assumptions about race and white immigrant assimilation a hundred years ago, highlighting how the Polish immigrant experience is relevant to present-day immigration debates on both sides of the Atlantic. Further, his research shows the complexity of attitudes toward immigration in Germany and the United States, challenging historical myths surrounding German national identity and the American “melting pot.”

In a comparative study of Polish migrants who settled in the Ruhr Valley and northeastern Pennsylvania, McCook shows that in both regions, Poles become active citizens within their host societies through engagement in social conflict within the public sphere to defend their ethnic, class, gender, and religious interests. While adapting to the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania, Poles simultaneously retained strong bonds with Poland, through remittances, the exchange of letters, newspapers, and frequent return migration. In this analysis of migration in a globalizing world, McCook highlights the multifaceted ways in which immigrants integrate into society, focusing in particular on how Poles created and utilized transnational spaces to mobilize and attain authentic and more permanent identities grounded in newer broadly conceived notions of citizenship.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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Series Editor’s Preface

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pp. xi-xii

In the late nineteenth century and the early twentieth, the lands of partitioned Poland bled off “surplus” population that migrated in search of bread and work. Over three hundred thousand Poles found their way to the coal mines of the Ruhr; 160,000, to the collieries of northeastern Pennsylvania. Given the similarities of their principal industry and their immigrant populations, these two sites offer up a nearly perfect opportunity to ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xiii-xv

There are many persons and institutions I wish to thank for making this comparative study of Polish migrants possible. For financial support during the research, writing, and production of this volume, I am indebted to the German Chancellor Scholars Program of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; the German Historical Institute (Washington, D.C.); the Kosciuszko ...

Abbreviations

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pp. xvii-xviii

Guide to Pronunciation

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pp. xix-

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Introduction Migration and Citizenship in a Globalizing World

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pp. 1-16

Experts have labeled the last few decades the “age of migration.”1 Indeed, according to the United Nations, the total number of international migrants, defined as those living in a country different from the one in which they were born, more than doubled between 1970 and 2009 and stands at 200 million persons.2 In Europe and North America, the arrival ...

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1 Migration and Settlement

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pp. 17-37

More than 10 percent of the population of partitioned Poland left for North America or Western Europe during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; many migrated to the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania.1 Between 1870 and 1890, 31,629 Poles settled in the Ruhr, and 15,142 arrived in northeastern Pennsylvania.2 From the 1890s onward, the ...

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2 The Face of Mining

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pp. 38-53

Between 1870 and 1914, the demand for coal to power the ongoing industrialization of Germany and the United States caused the mine industries of both the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania to expand dramatically. Annual coal production in the Ruhr increased in this period nearly tenfold, from 12 million to 110 million tons, with most of this fuel going to ...

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3 Breaking Barriers

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pp. 54-69

The majority of poles who migrated to the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania were young males in their teens and twenties. These men had little prior exposure to mining, but they were attracted to the industry because barriers to employment were low, the occupational structure was flat, and wages and hours were better than those of many other forms of employment. ...

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4 Becoming Mining Men

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pp. 70-100

In the aftermath of workplace struggles during the 1890s, Polish workers recognized the power of collective action and the inadequacy of existing ethnic institutions for promoting social equality. From the turn of the century onward, Poles began joining unions in large numbers, a development that significantly aided integration by making them political actors within the bounds of civil society ...

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5 Divided Hearts, Divided Faith

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pp. 101-120

Catholicism has traditionally bound Poles together as a community. This was particularly the case for Polish migrants to the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania. In both regions, the local Catholic parish was a visible, if highly contested, symbol that provided continuity with the past, while offering a key resource that Poles could use to build and strengthen ...

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6 Challenging State and Society

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pp. 121-145

when poles began arriving in the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania during the 1870s and 1880s, state authorities took little notice of their presence, and anti-Polish sentiment within native society was limited.1 As Polish migration increased from the 1890s onward, attitudes quickly changed; many within government and the general public grew concerned about the danger this “foreign” element ...

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7 War and Polish Communities Transformed, 1914–24

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pp. 146-163

By the eve of World War I, stable and vibrant Polish communities were firmly established in the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania. Although Poles continued to suffer discrimination at the hands of the state and the middle class, they were increasingly accepted as an integral part of working-class society in both regions, and Polish organizational activities promoted ...

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Conclusion Determining the Borders of Integration

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pp. 164-172

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, hundreds of thousands of Poles, driven by diverse economic, cultural, and political factors, left their homeland and migrated to the coal regions of the Ruhr and northeastern Pennsylvania. Arriving in each region, Poles faced severe challenges. The majority entered industrial environments that differed ...

Appendix

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pp. 173-174

Notes

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pp. 175-237

Bibliography

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pp. 239-255

Index

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pp. 257-270


E-ISBN-13: 9780821443514
Print-ISBN-13: 9780821419267

Publication Year: 2011

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Subject Headings

  • Community life -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Ruhr River Valley (Germany) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Pennsylvania -- Ethnic relations.
  • Immigrants -- Germany -- Ruhr River Valley -- History.
  • Polish Americans -- Cultural assimilation -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Polish people -- Cultural assimilation -- Germany -- Ruhr River Valley -- History.
  • Coal miners -- Germany -- Ruhr River Valley -- History.
  • Community life -- Germany -- Ruhr River Valley -- History.
  • Coal miners -- Pennsylvania -- History.
  • Immigrants -- Pennsylvania -- History.
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