Must Use Resource: Immigration to the Great Plains

Looking through some of our annotations for secondary sources, I realized that I wrote, “Must Read” with nine exclamation marks behind one source on Immigration to the Great Plains from 1864 to 1914. After taking note of the rather long timeline and seeing the words “great plains” that grabs every Minnesotan’s attention, I skimmed the first page and concluded it was a must read. Every sentence is packed with information and now that I have dissected this article, I think I forgot an exclamation mark or two.

This journal article touches on some very interesting and very specific topics that Amy and I really need for both a more global timeline as well as an understanding of the midwest before the German Apostolic population arrived.

To begin, Garver discusses the influence of six wars and explains how they created the proper conditions for migration. Although all of these wars have obviously had their influence, three of them have pertinence in our research.

  1. The American Civil War (1861-1865): Abolished slavery which in turn encouraged immigration for the continuation of work on the Railroads throughout the United States. This was also about 40 years before the Apostolic church was founded in Stevens County in 1902, which gives us some perspective.
  2. The 7 Weeks War (1866): Prussia and Italy defeated the Austrian Empire and several small German Principalities which lead to a small and preliminary German migration out of the German Territory. This was the same time that the Mexican Republic was reestablished after the expulsion of the French under Benito Juarez. The only reason that is pertinent is that lead to great commerce trade and more Mexican influence in the construction of the Railroad in the Midwest.
  3. Franco-German War (July, 1870- May, 1871): Prussia and Germany allied to defeat France and establish an authoritarian constitutional German empire. This allowed for and created rapid industrialization and a new political structure that promoted aggressive foreign policy and destabilized European powers in a variety of ways. This also allowed for them more freedom to travel and move to a different country.

Above I touched a bit on the importance of these three specific wars, but there are five influence Garver makes to discuss the influence of war on the Grate Plains. To be as concise as possible, he outlines these as:

  1. Enlargement of Civil Liberties
  2. Extreme Economic Growth
  3. Industrial Technological Innovation
  4. Growing World Market
  5. “Advent” of Mass Eastern/Southern European Immigration

Each one of these things is absolutely crucial to our research because they are all a piece of one of our overarching topics. While that seems pretty straightforward (and exciting!), the book says that these products of war were facilitated by “the achievements of widespread literacy through universal, free, compulsory, and state funded elementary education.” I don’t know what this means I don’t think that it was very clearly described throughout the journal. This may have more to do with states closer to the center of the United States, but nevertheless is a topic to be explored as well. Another thing that this journal has information on are the churches and general culture of the Eastern and Southern European immigrants. The influence of small town industry and rural life is also discussed throughout the article and will be very useful to our research.

Religious painted glass in German that was most likely from a small town Main street.

Garver, Bruce. “Immigration to the Great Plains, 1865—1914: War, Politics, Technology, And Economic Development.” Great Plains Quarterly 31, no. 3, 2011: 179-203.

One Reply to “Must Use Resource: Immigration to the Great Plains”

  1. I am happy to see the search for global context going on here Joy — getting a good sense of the Push and Pull factors of the time period is useful and important. This article also seems to provide a good theoretical foundation from which the two of you can work moving forward. Not that you need, or should, buy his argument lock, stock, and barrel but there is much “food for thought” there. There is also apparently a goodly dose of the terminology employed in “Great Planes Studies.”

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