Manufactures of Yesterday, Today
In The Uprooted, Oscar Handlin paints an image of the journey of immigrants leaving their villages in Europe, the rough conditions of crossing the Atlantic and the assimilation into America's economy. It is here we find the country engulfed in the industrial revolution powered by an endless supply of labor forces in water powered plants, a work ethic that we still witness today.
Immigrants came from Europe of an old society that fell apart in the wake of a modern world that left millions homeless. The previous stability of agriculturists were the staple of a continent and impervious to change. Peasants farmed their lands as individuals connected to a village that viewed itself as a whole. Not only did the land united them, but after generations as a clan, blood ties between families played a role in the acquisition of land and the moral imperative to pass it to their descendants. Marriage was expected and negotiated by professional matchmakers. It not only united a couple but the entire wellbeing of two families, their land and dowries. The traditional household roles were to be fulfilled as the father took his place as the authority over family and land. The wife reared her babies and tended to the garden, livestock and provisions as their children took on chores according to their age. Extended family, without the privilege of land, would be taken in along side servants to aide in the many jobs the land brought to operate as an economic whole. Villagers worked together with the women tending to work inside the home as they gossiped and the men helped each other in exchange. The land was allocated in strips and was used by the whole community for grazing & wood as it held no boundaries. Each strip was divided into thirds in accordance of each season and the family that toiled in its soil lived off of its bounties.
The village's stability was threatened by an increasing population of outsiders consisting of Jews, Gypsies, Italians, Slovak and Hungarian laborers that needed a surplus of food from their land. Already the peasant was stretch to his limit, not only providing for his family, but also paying the land lord rent and collections at church. He had no knowledge of savings and thought of money only as way to purchase. Eventually landlords consolidated the strips of land that put the peasant at a disadvantage as he had to compete in the market place. Some would rent plots under a lease that could span throughout several generations just to make ends meet. With the invention of pasteurization, the infant death rate dropped and exploded the european population and land was no longer available for inheritance. Land would be surveyed and fenced causing farms to be less self sufficient without the ability to gather free wood and cattle graze openly. With the advent of new machinery, peasants could not compete with the efficiency and to turn a profit at the traders markets. Some gave up and moved away to seek employment in factories or agricultural labor on larger estates. Those that learned of the New World were filled with hope of abundant land as far as the eye can see, starting the migration from port towns to farms
Immigrants leaving their villages recollected their situation on the problems that forced them to leave their homes but these memories of the journey will mesh into a giant struggle. It was a long journey, before the expansion of railways and even longer by foot for over three hundred miles that took its toll on the weak. National checkpoints complicated the passage and the immigrant had to prove ones citizenship, evading taxes or service and health. If these crossings became troublesome, there were those that helped smuggle people across these lines for a fee. The current goal was to end this tiresome stagger at any port to embark their transatlantic voyage. Once there, they had to haggle over boat fare whos schedule was...
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