FACT: “Congress’s 1819 Act Respecting Passenger Ships and Vessels (sometimes called the Steerage Act) limited the numbers of migrants traveling on any ship to two persons for every five tons of regular freight—thus creating an equation of commodities and living freight, with the added refinement of a measurable ratio. The act required ship captains to collect basic information about arriving foreigners, thus marking the beginning of U.S. efforts to count immigrants.”

Foreign Relations: American Immigration in Global Perspective
by Donna R. Gabaccia

Histories investigating U.S. immigration have often portrayed America as a domestic melting pot, merging together those who arrive on its shores. Yet this is not a truly accurate depiction of the nation’s complex connections to immigration. Offering a brand-new global history, Foreign Relations takes a comprehensive look at the links between American immigration and U.S. foreign relations. Donna Gabaccia examines America’s relationship to immigration and its debates through the prism of the nation’s changing foreign policy over the past two centuries, and she highlights how these ever-evolving dynamics have influenced the lives of individuals moving to and from the United States.

With an emphasis on American immigration during the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century industrial era and the contemporary era of free trade, Gabaccia shows that immigrants were not isolationists who cut ties to their countries of origin or their families. Instead, their relations to America were often in flux and dependent on government policies of the time. She cites a wide range of examples, such as how bilateral commercial treaties of the nineteenth century influenced whether family members might receive passage to America, how families maintained bonds to their countries of origin through the exchange of letters and goods, and how politics on behalf of the mother country could still be fought from across the ocean. Today, U.S. commercial diplomacy in China and NAFTA-era Mexico raises concerns about immigrants once again, and Gabaccia demonstrates that immigration has altered with America’s developing geopolitical position in the world.

An innovative history of U.S. immigration, Foreign Relations casts a fresh eye on a compelling and controversial topic.

“No one has done more than Donna Gabaccia to develop a global framework for understanding the history of American immigration. In this book, she brings together her earlier work on international migration with a new interest in American foreign relations. The result is a bold, sweeping, and provocative recasting of America’s encounter with immigrants past and present.”—Gary Gerstle, author of American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century

We invite you to read the Introduction here: