What Was The Largest Migration In History?

By Antonia Čirjak on June 4 2020 in Did You Know

Extremely large migrations are usually called mass migrations
Extremely large migrations are usually called mass migrations
  • The Italian diaspora is the biggest documented mass migration.
  • During the partition of India, estimates say that almost two million people were killed.
  • In Italian history, there are two large Italian diasporas: the first one happened in 1880 and the second one after World War II.

Extremely large migrations are usually called mass migrations. It is a term that describes large groups of people moving from a geographical area to a different one. Other known types of migration are individual and small scale migrations. Another type is the seasonal migration, which occurs regularly.

Throughout human history, there were many mass migrations, and it is not easy to determine which was the biggest one. However, the two that are mentioned the most often are the partition of India and the Italian diaspora. The partition of India is generally considered the largest migration, although the exact numbers are unknown. The Italian diaspora is the biggest documented mass migration.

The Partition Of India

The partition of India happened in 1947, and it was the division of British India into India and Pakistan. The division was set into motion by an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Today, those are three separate countries, the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. During the partition of India, two provinces were divided, Bengal and Punjab. The division was based on religion, and the people were divided on whether they were Muslim or not.

Amritsar, India: 2019 Sign board for the newly opened Partition Museum. Historic townhall building of the British era now converted into a Museum depicting the stores of 1947 partition India Pakistan
Amritsar, India: 2019. Sign board for the  Partition Museum. Image credit: PhotographerIncognito / Shutterstock.com

Along with the people, the British Indian Army was also divided, as well as the Navy and the Civil Service. It is believed that this decision resulted in anywhere from 10 to 12 million people migrating, which created enormous refugee crises all over the area. This is the documented number, however, it is believed that the real number is much higher. Many acts of violence were made during this period, with a huge number of people losing their lives.

It is estimated that almost two million people were killed during this migration. It was an extremely violent period for the area, and the partition still causes tension between India and Pakistan. Their relationship has not improved to this day, all because of this mass migration and the separation that caused it. Years later, Bangladesh separated from Pakistan, but this event is not considered a part of this mass migration.

The Italian Diaspora

The term Italian diaspora is used to describe the mass migration of Italians from Italy. In Italian history, there are two large Italian diasporas. The first one happened in 1880 and lasted around 30 to 40 years. The rise of Fascism stopped the migration temporarily. The main reason people were migrating was poverty in Italy.

In Italian history, there are two large Italian diasporas.
In Italian history, there are two large Italian diasporas.

The cause of this poverty was the fact that people did not have any land, due to the property being subdivided throughout the generations. Life became extremely hard, especially in Southern Italy, and the people started migrating to the United States, as well as to South America.

Millions of Italians migrated in search of work and a better life. It was mostly the younger generations that were migrating, in search of a more fruitful future. After World War II, there was a second Italian diaspora. Together, these two make up the largest ever documented mass migration. The number of Italians that migrated over these two events is somewhere around 15 million. The period in question is from 1880 to 1980, so this mass migration lasted for 100 years.

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