Teacher | Student
Originally produced in:
Also available in: en

1. Excerpt from the article “Political emigrants in Post-Vienna Europe”

“In nineteenth-century Europe, political emigration occurred in a variety of options, as far their origins, the size and role they played in the history of the nations is concerned. Some emigrations were of the <> nature [...], others were limited to a few dozens, but outstanding, exiles. [...] The majority of political exiles were constituted by fugitives forced by threats of losing their freedom and sometimes lives from the hands of external enemies or people in the service of authorities after the fall of an uprising, a failed revolution, discovery of a conspiracy, or a wave of repression directed against real and supposed oppositionists. [...] However, there were also those, who went into exile voluntarily, without being forced, only to demonstrate their disapproval for ruling regime in their homeland and to fight against it from abroad. [...]

People would choose as a place to stay especially these countries where they would not be given in the hands of enemies and where it was possible to freely pursue political activities [...] Classical political emigrant host countries were France, Great Britain, and Switzerland. [...] Emigrants could freely go to the United States of America, but for the most active of them it was too far away from their homeland. [...]

Among the political emigrants one can find representatives of various social classes, from the great aristocracy to workers, plebeians, and peasants. [...] However, if we take a closer look at the lifestyle and activities, the awareness, ideas on their role and social tasks, and above all, the source of the income of the vast majority of politically active emigrants, it turns out that the most eligible class to them have been the intellectuals, regardless of who their parents were. [...]

The attitude of the host societies towards emigrants was not homogenous similarly to the political orientations of the societies. Undoubtedly important role was played by the circumstances like tradition of earlier relations between nations and countries, current interests of the host country in the international diplomatic game, the closeness of the political system policy objectives, which would be achieved by emigrants after the successful return to their home country and the political system and public life accepted by the dominant part of society in the country granting asylum. [...]

Often, providing hospitality was not limited solely to the admission of political refugees to territory of a country. Sometimes, out of necessity, especially when the number of emigrants was high, collective accommodation as well as meals were provided. [...] But in some cases, usually under pressure of public opinion, the host countries paid the cost of living of discredited foreigners for many years.

This situation took place mainly in France. Most of the money was spent there on Polish emigrants, paying year after year, so called <> – fixed monthly allowances. But the support was also given to the Spanish or Italian emigrants. [...]. However, it went together with some rigors somewhat limiting freedom of action and movement of emigrants.

The situation was opposite in the UK where emigrants had total freedom within the limits of existing legislation. Indeed, no one there was eager to pay fixed allowances to political exiles.”

1 2
Source: S. Kalembka, Political Emigrations in Post-Vienna Europe, free translation by K. Czekaj (original title “Emigracje polityczne w powiedeńskiej Europie”) [w:] Europa i świat w epoce restauracji, romantyzmu i rewolucji 1815-1849, edited by W. Zajewskiego, volume 2, Wydawnictwo „Wiedza Powszechna”, Warsaw 1991, pp. 94-133, PL.


The quoted excerpt from the article is a scientific analysis of the phenomenon of political emigration – its causes, image and living conditions of political exiles in nineteenth-century Europe. Make sure that the vocabulary included in this (yet professional) text is quite clear to you (on the basis of definitions from PWN Portal of Knowledge, Portal Wiedzy PWN):

Revolution – a violent change of political system and social organization which takes place with relatively broad public participation and uses extralegal means.

Restoration – a return of dynasty to rule the country, formerly usually associated with restoration of the old system.

Opposition – political group (party, coalition) which is against political party in charge or the government.


  1. What were the causes of the phenomenon of political emigration among the nations in the nineteenth-century Europe?
  2. Which social background and groups did the emigrants descend from?
  3. What was the attitude of societies and countries granting asylum to political refugees?

Display teacher's view to find the answers.

Description and Analysis

The answers to the “Open Questions”:

  1. The text points out the following causes of political exile: repression of ruling regime towards the opponents in the country (fear of a trial and severe sentence for anti-government activity) and the desire to manifest the objections to the situation in the refugee's home country.
  2. Among the emigrants, we can find representatives of all social groups taking into account their origins. In terms of source of income, we include the majority of emigrants to the class called intelligentsia.
  3. Attitude of European countries to political emigrants was diverse. Countries like France, England, Switzerland and the United States willingly accepted refugees. In some of these countries, emigrants could count on the freedom of action, and even money support.

Geographical/Historical Context

As the cited specialist of the issues of nineteenth-century political exile (S. Kalembka) wrote: “Nineteenth-century emigration [...] was derived from the conflict between the emancipation aspirations of significant sections of society and individual social classes, with the socio-political orders maintained mostly using strength. And because it happened in the era of the formation of modern nations in Europe, liberation movements joined as efficient cause.” (S. Kalembka, 2003). Throughout the century, the emigrants of the first wave were political activists persecuted in their countries for spreading the ideas of coming from the spirit of the French Revolution – democracy and socialism – in the twenties of the century, the Carbonari from the Italian states, in the second half of the century, the German Socialists and Russian radicals. Fight for liberation of nations from outside of the homeland was conducted by: the Poles after 1830, the Hungarians after 1848, the Bulgarians and Greeks persisting in their efforts to free themselves from the Turkish slavery. Actually, the only societies in Europe after 1815, among which the phenomenon of mass emigration for political reasons did not take place were: British, Belgians, Swiss, Dutch and Scandinavians.

Countries that opened their borders for political refugees are mainly England, France, Switzerland and Belgium, although a popular destination for migration were the United States, which were usually chosen because of the attractive job perspectives. In some situations, the country was giving a political asylum to people fighting against its actual enemy – such tactics was chosen by e.g. Turkey. Turkey willingly accepted refugees from Russia and Austria – countries with whom they remained in permanent conflict.

Emigrants were a very diverse group in terms of social and economic situation. Profile of these environments included all social groups especially in case of large groups forced to escape the repressions that resulted from the defeat in armed conflicts (the Poles in the 1830-1831 and 1863-1864, the Hungarians in 1848-1849). Diversity of origins and financial situation of emigrants was reflected in the diversity of their ideological silhouette – during exile, they organized themselves in political parties with a very wide world outlook – from conservatives to radical socialists. A good example here is the Polish emigration thatrepresented radically different vision of the country even though the emigrants were concentrated around a common goal for all fractions – struggle for the independent state. Hence in the emigrant environment, a number of political groups emerged and the most important were: conservative-liberal Hotel Lambert, republican Polish Democratic Society, and Assemblies of Polish People (in Polish Gromady Ludu Polskiego) that referred in their program to utopian socialism.

The emigrants activity was of great importance for the dissemination of the purposes of their fight in the eyes of international public opinion, sometimes also affected international diplomatic plots by using this argument against political opponents. This activity also helped to build national awareness and sustain a fighting spirit in a society enslaved by stronger countries.


Websites presenting different aspects of political emigration in the nineteenth century:

http://www.emigrantletters.com/PL/output.asp?CategoryID=6605 – webpage dedicated to the emigrants' stories from the preserved letters (multilingual).

http://www.interklasa.pl/portal/index/strony?mainSP=subjectpages&mainSRV=historia&methid=469378&page=subpage&article_id=318349&page_id=13726 – education portal, where experts answer questions, in this case regarding the political emigration.

http://www.oecdobserver.org/news/fullstory.php/aid/337 – article from the OECD magazine (OECD Observer) commenting on contemporary emigration of people from different countries.