European emigration Article

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Total population
530,000,000 +
6.5% of the total world population
(world population of 7.4 billion). [1]
(not counting partial European descent)
Regions with significant populations
  United States250,553,265 [2]
  Brazil102,051,646 [3]
  Mexico16,000,000 - 56,000,000 [4] [5] [6] [7]
  Argentina40,900,000 [8]
  Canada27,386,890 [9]
  Australia22,982,665[ citation needed]
  Colombia19,500,350 [10] [11]
  Venezuela13,094,085 [12] [13] [14]
  Chile11-13,000,000 [15] [16]
  Cuba10,160,399 [17]
  South Africa7,472,100 [18]
  Costa Rica3,900,000 [4]
  Uruguay3,151,095 [19]
  Puerto Rico3,064,862 [20]
  New Zealand2,969,391 [21]
  Guatemala2,490,000 [22]
  Dominican Republic2,000,000+ [14]
  Peru6,8,000-9,000,000 [14] [23]
  Bolivia2,000,000+ [14]
  Ecuador1,400,000+ [24]
  Paraguay1,300,000+ [4]
  Nicaragua1,000,000+ [14]
Languages of Europe (mostly English, Spanish, minority of Portuguese and French)
P christianity.svg Majority Christianity
(mostly Catholic and Protestant, some Orthodox)
Irreligion  · Other Religions
Related ethnic groups

European emigration can be defined as subsequent emigration waves from the European continent to other continents. The origins of the various European diasporas [25] can be traced to the people, who left the European nation states or stateless ethnic communities on the European continent. [26]

From 1815 to 1932, 60 million people left Europe (with many returning home), primarily to "areas of European settlement" in the Americas (especially to the United States, Canada, Brazil, the Southern Cone such as Argentina, and Uruguay [26]), Australia, [27] New Zealand and Siberia. [28] These populations also multiplied rapidly in their new habitat; much more so than the populations of Africa and Asia. As a result, on the eve of World War I, 38% of the world's total population was of European ancestry. [28]

More contemporary, European emigration can also refer to emigration from one European country to another, especially in the context of the internal mobility in the European Union ( intra-EU mobility) or mobility within the Eurasian Union.


8th - early 5th century BC: Greeks

Map of Greek coastal settlements throughout the Mediterranean and Black Sea
Map of Greek territories and colonies during the Archaic period. (800–480 BC)

In Archaic Greece, trading and colonizing activities of the Greek tribes from the Balkans and Asia Minor propagated Greek culture, religion and language around the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins. Greek city-states were established in Southern Europe, northern Libya and the Black Sea coast, and the Greeks founded over 400 colonies in these areas. [29] Alexander the Great's conquest of the Achaemenid Empire marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period, which was characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization in Asia and Africa; the Greek ruling classes established their presence in Egypt, southwest Asia, and Northwest India. [30] Many Greeks migrated to the new Hellenistic cities founded in Alexander's wake, as geographically-dispersed as Uzbekistan [31] and Kuwait. [32]


Colonial settlers

The European continent has been a central part of a complex migration system, which included swaths of North Africa, the Middle East and Asia Minor well before the Modern Era. Yet, only the population growth of the late Middle Ages allowed for larger population movements, inside and outside of the continent. [33] The discovery of the Americas in 1492 stimulated a steady stream of voluntary migration from Europe. About 200,000 Spaniards settled in their American colonies prior to 1600, a small settlement compared to the 3 to 4 million Amerindians who lived in Spanish territory in the Americas.

Roughly one and a half million Europeans settled in the New World between 1500 and 1800 (see table). While the absolute number of European emigrants during the early modern period was very small compared to later waves of migration in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the relative size of these early modern migrations was nevertheless substantial.

During the 1500s, Spain and Portugal sent a steady flow of government and church officials, members of the lesser nobility, people from the working classes and their families averaging roughly three-thousand people per year from a population of around eight million. A total of around 437,000 left Spain in the 150-year period from 1500 to 1650 to Central, South America and the Caribbean Islands. Between 1500 and 1700 only 100,000 Portuguese crossed the Atlantic to settle in Brazil. However, with the discovery of numerous highly productive gold mines in the Minas Gerais region, the Portuguese emigration to Brazil increased by five fold. From 1700 til 1760, over half a million Portuguese immigrants entered Brazil. In the 18th century, thanks to the gold rush, the capital of the province of Minas Gerais, the town of Villa Rica (today, Ouro Preto) became for a time one of the most populous cities in the New World. This massive influx of Portuguese immigration and influence created a city which remains to this day, one of the best examples of 18th century European architecture in the Americas. [26]

Between one-half and two-thirds of European immigrants to the Thirteen Colonies between the 1630s and the American Revolution came under indentures. [34] The practice was sufficiently common that the Habeas Corpus Act 1679, in part, prevented imprisonments overseas; it also made provisions for those with existing transportation contracts and those "praying to be transported" in lieu of remaining in prison upon conviction. [35] In any case, while half the European immigrants to the Thirteen Colonies had been indentured servants, at any one time they were outnumbered by workers who had never been indentured, or whose indenture had expired. Free wage labour was more common for Europeans in the colonies. [36] Indentured persons were numerically important mostly in the region from Virginia north to New Jersey. Other colonies saw far fewer of them. The total number of European immigrants to all 13 colonies before 1775 was about 500,000-550,000; of these 55,000 were involuntary prisoners. Of the 450,000 or so European arrivals who came voluntarily, Tomlins estimates that 48% were indentured. [37] About 75% were under the age of 25. The age of legal adulthood for men was 24 years; those over 24 generally came on contracts lasting about 3 years. [38] Regarding the children who came, Gary Nash reports that, "many of the servants were actually nephews, nieces, cousins and children of friends of emigrating Englishmen, who paid their passage in return for their labour once in America." [39]

Number of European Emigrants 1500-1783
Country of Origin Number Period
Spain 437,000 1500-1650
Portugal 100,000 1500-1700
Great Britain 400,000 1607-1700
Great Britain (Totals) 322,000 1700-1780
     Scotland, Ireland 190,000-250,000
France 51,000 1608-1760
Germany ( Southwestern, Totals) 100,000 1683-1783
     Switzerland, Alsace Lorraine
Totals 1,410,000 1500-1783
Source: [26]

However, the development of the mining economy in the 18th century raised wages and employment opportunities in the Portuguese colony and emigration increased: in the 18th century alone, about 600,000 Portuguese settled in Brazil, a mass emigration given that Portugal had a population of only 2 million people. In North America, immigration was dominated by British, Irish, French and other Northern Europeans. [40] From 1650 to 1800, almost 800,000 Spaniards emigrated to the New World, especially under the Bourbon Dynasty in the 18th century. Emigration to New France laid the origins of modern Canada, with important early immigration of colonists from Northern France. [41]

Post-independence emigration

Mass European emigration to the Americas, Africa, Australia and New Zealand took place in the 19th and 20th centuries. This was the effect of a dramatic demographic transition in 19th-century-Europe, subsequent wars and political changes on the continent. From the end of the Napoleonic Wars until 1920, some 60 million Europeans emigrated. Of these, 71% went to North America, 21% to Latin America (mainly Argentina and Brazil) and 7% to Australia. About 11 million of these people went to Latin America, of whom 38% were Italians, 28% were Spaniards and 11% were Portuguese. [42]

Between 1821 and 1890, 9.55 million Europeans settled in the United States, mainly Germans, Irish, English, Scandinavians, Italians and Scots. 18 million more arrived from 1890 to 1914, including 2.5 million from Canada. Despite the large number of immigrants arriving, people born outside of the United States formed a relatively small number of the U.S. population: in 1910, foreigners accounted for 14.7 percent of the country's population or 13.5 million people. The huge number of immigrants to Argentina, which had a much smaller population, had a much greater impact on the country's ethnic composition. By 1914, 30% of Argentina's population was foreign-born, with 12% of its population born in Italy, the largest immigrant group. Next was Canada: by 1881, 14% of Canada's population was foreign-born, and the proportion increased to 22% in 1921. In Brazil, the proportion of immigrants in the national population was much smaller, and immigrants tended to be concentrated in the central and Southern parts of the country. The proportion of foreigners in Brazil peaked in 1920, at just 7 percent or 2 million people, mostly Italians, Portuguese, Germans and Spaniards; however, the influx of 4 million European immigrants between 1880 and 1920 significantly altered the racial composition of the country. [40] From 1901 to 1920, immigration was responsible for only 7 percent of Brazilian population growth, but in the years of high immigration, from 1891 to 1900, the share was as high as 30 percent (higher than Argentina's 26 percent in the 1880s). [43]

The countries in the Americas that received a major wave of European immigrants from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s were: the United States (32.6 million), Argentina (6.5 million), Canada (5.1 million), Brazil (5.0 million), Cuba (1.4 million), Uruguay (713,000). [44] Other countries that received a more modest immigration flow (accounting for less than 10 percent of total European emigration to Latin America) were: Mexico (270,000), Colombia (126,000), Chile (90,000), Puerto Rico (62,000), Peru (30,000), and Paraguay (21,000). [44] [43]

Arrivals in the 19th and the 20th centuries

European Emigrants 1800–1960
Destination Percent
United States 70.0%
Latin America 12.0%
Russian Siberia 9.0%
Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa 9.0%
Total 100.0%
Source: [45]
Destination Years Arrivals Ref(s)
United States 1821–1932 32,244,000 [46]
Argentina 1856–1932 6,405,000 [46]
Brazil 1872–1972 5,350,000 [46]
Canada 1831–1932 5,206,000 [46]
Australia 1821–1932 2,913,000 [46]
Cuba 1901–1931 857,000 [46]
South Africa 1881–1932 852,000 [46]
Uruguay 1836–1932 713,000 [46]
New Zealand 1821–1932 594,000 [46]
Mexico 1911–1931 226,000 [46]

By region

"Areas of European settlement". Census data and articles quoted in description

Nations and regions outside of Europe with significant populations of European ancestry: [47] It is important to note, however, that these statistics rely on identification with a European ethnic group in censuses, and as such are subjective (especially in the case of mixed origins).


( South Africans of European descent): 4,586,838 (8.9% of South Africa's population) [48] (Spaniards who settled the Canary Islands, Canary Islanders).


Siberia: ( Russians) [49]

The Middle East Small communities of European, white American and white Australian expatriates in the Persian Gulf countries like Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE; and in Aramco compounds in Saudi Arabia. Historically before 1970, small ethnic European (esp. Greek and Italian) enclaves were found in Egypt ( Greeks in Egypt, Italian Egyptians) and Syria ( Greeks in Syria).


Total European population in the Americas—approximately 446,394,000

Europeans in Northern America

Total European population—approximately 300,000,000

European CanadianCanada 2011 Census reported 61% of the population, or 20,000,000 people, mostly divided into Anglophone (18 million) and Francophone (10 million). [50]

European American – 72.4% of the population, or 223,800,000

European Mexican - estimated by the government in 2010 as 47% of the population (56 million) using phenotypical traits (skin color) as the criteria. [6] If the criteria used is the prescence of blond hair, it is 18% [51] [52] - 23%. [53]

Europeans in South America and the Caribbean

Middle America (including Central America and the Caribbean) and South America (see Latin Americans of European descent)

Total European population—approximate estimate of ~200,000,000

Argentina: 79% of the population or 38,900,000, may include an unknown percentage of mestizos and mulattos. [54] Other sources [55] put 86.4% of the population. Falkland Islanders mainly European of British descent—total population 3,140.


Total population of Europeans in Oceania is approximately 23,185,000 or approximately 22,818,000 excluding Hawaii.

European Australians - English 36.1%, Irish 11.0%, Scottish 9.3%, Italian 4.6%, German 4.5%, Greek 1.8% and Dutch 1.6%. A large proportion —33.5%- chose to identify as ‘Australian’, however the census Bureau stats most of these are of old Anglo-Celtic colonial stock. [56] [57] [58]

European New Zealanders - The 2013 official census had 2,969,391 or 74.0% identify as European. [59] Europeans (especially Anglo-Celtic) are still the largest ethnic group in New Zealand. However, their proportion of the total New Zealand population has been decreasing gradually since the 1916 count. [60]

Populations of European descent

Emigration from the European Union

See also


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