Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Armistice and Immigration.

On November 11, 1918, German and Allied leaders sat down to sign the armistice that put an end to the Great War. Fighting would continue for weeks as word traveled slowly to the front that the war was over. In France, an entire generation of young men had been lost to the war. On a population chart of France, the normal gentle slope of population growth shows a sharp chunk missing in the years 1915-1920. The war machine had reshaped French demographics. The loss of male labor was a boon for immigration; Polish, Italian, and Spanish laborers poured in to fill the spots left vacant. Interestingly, in the last two hundred years, no European country has received more immigrants than France. Per capita, it has more immigrants than even the US. If you travel to certain parts of France, the northern mining towns in particular, you can still hear the foreign accents among the locals. The legacy of war reverberates far beyond the battlefield.

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