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  • Refugees in Europe, 1919–1959: A Forty Years' Crisis? ed. by Matthew Frank and Jessica Reinisch
  • Laura J. Hilton
Refugees in Europe, 1919–1959: A Forty Years' Crisis? Edited by matthew frank and jessica reinisch. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2017. ix + 257 pp. ISBN 978-1-4725-8562-2. $114.00 (hardcover).

The chapters in this edited collection, Refugees in Europe, 1919–1959, provide not only historiographical examinations of the [End Page 181] definitions, historical place, and impact of refugees but also specific case studies. The authors thoughtfully re-examine the legal, procedural, and financial precedents established in the first half of the twentieth century and trace the emerging patterns. As a whole, this volume lays bare the ways in which the history of the refugee and refugee policy have privileged the European experience, often without acknowledgement of other refugee flows before or concurrent with those in Europe from 1919–1959. It interrogates the implications of the very definition of refugee, which specified that this status applied only to those outside their country of origin who have fled due to a "well-founded fear of persecution" (p. 4). This distinction thereby privileged refugees and separated them, placing them above economic and/or environmental migrants. Taken as a whole, the authors' scholarship, deeply rooted in archival evidence, demonstrates how and why refugees have been and will continue to be a trans-national, on-going, and global concern, tied to essential questions regarding minority rights, citizenship, and national sovereignty. It shows how the specific context of each refugee crisis connects to the responses to it, both national and international, especially the perception of refugees as sometimes a potential economic gain for a receptor nation but more often as a spectre of impoverished and foreign mouths to feed in a time of scarcity.

The volume has two main sections; the initial one probes key questions regarding frameworks, definitions, and patterns, while the latter focuses on case studies. Zara Steiner's chapter lays out multiple catastrophes that led to refugee flows, undercuts the idea that there was a clear, linear progression of refugee policy, and explains how Cold War politics transformed refugees from being political threats and economic burdens into anti-Communists. In his chapter, Peter Gatrell focuses on how historical understanding helped key groups involved with refugees (e.g., politicians, staff of international or voluntary agencies, and bureaucrats) understand and respond to their respective crisis, framed by the World Refugee Year (1959–1960). At the same time, however, examining these responses illuminates how countries magnified their humanitarian work and downplayed their own roles in causing or not responding to refugee flows. This pointed critique of the historical and public use of the refugee continues in Tony Kushner's chapter, which opens with a vignette describing the "correct" way to be a refugee: flee danger, be destitute, not become a burden, but rather contribute meaningfully to one's new nation. Kushner then assesses the exclusion of those who do not fit this pattern, specifically discussing the globalization of refugees and their marginalization or outright exclusion from mainstream historical study. [End Page 182]

The case studies that constitute the second half of this volume push against the boundaries of the forty-year crisis and provide strong and deeply evidenced examples of both the refugee flows and how national and international policies shaped them. Jan Manasek's chapter on the place of ethnic and religious minorities in the Balkans during the 1870s clearly establishes the trans-national nature of refugee creation and response, delves into the development of the concept of political asylum, describes the connections between homogeneous national identity formation and refugees, and examines these early examples of planned population transfers. Mark Levene's chapter traces the ongoing story of Jewish refugees, from the Russian pogroms of the 1880s through the post-Second World War period, laying bare the role that antisemitism played in minimizing Jewish ability to emigrate or find asylum. In her chapter on the interwar refugee response, Barbara Metzger demonstrates how the League of Nations' efforts, even if they failed, laid essential groundwork for the international response in the 1940s. Matthew Frank tackles the question of group resettlement schemes, most of...


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