Between Micro and Macro: Theorizing Agency in Nineteenth-Century French Migrations
French Historical Studies
US : Duke University Press
457 - 481 p.
The dynamics of internal migration in nineteenth-century France are too complex to describe as a rural exodus or as the result of economic crises. Although wages were lower in the countryside than in cities, the countryside remained attractive and sustained its old migratory networks, including temporary migration. Urbanization was slow, even though Paris extended its sway over the entire national territory. Each village developed a migratory area that channeled flows of migrants, including women, in a threefold model: long-distance migration for the better off and the well educated seeking upward social mobility; short-range migration for the poorest; and sedentarity for the populations in the middle. Kinship ties or occupational networks, as well as the spatial distribution of opportunities and infrastructures, shaped the strategies and trajectories of human mobility. Nominative approaches derived from microhistory, and based on biographies, genealogies, and family structure, authorize a ‘‘mesoscopic’’ approach to the study of migration that elaborates the links between individuals and their macroscopic environment.