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The pressures of human migrations, whether as outright conquest or by slow cultural infiltration and resettlement, have affected the grand epochs in history (e.g. the fall of the Western Roman Empire); under the form of colonization, migration has transformed the world (e.g. the prehistoric and historic settlements of Australia and the Americas). Population genetics studied in traditionally settled modern populations have opened a window into the historical patterns of migrations, a technique pioneered by Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.
Forced migration (see population transfer) has been a means of social control under authoritarian regimes, yet under free initiative migration is a powerful factor in social adjustment (e.
In December 2003 The Global Commission on International Migration (GCIM) was launched with the support of Kofi Annan and several countries, with an independent 19-member Commission, threefold mandate and a finite life-span, ending December 2005. Its report, based on regional consultation meetings with stakeholders and scientific reports from leading international migration experts, was published and presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 5 October 2005. The 90-page Report, along with supporting evidence, is available on the GCIM website 
 Pre-modern migrations
 Modern migrations
While the pace of migration had accelerated since the 18th century
already (including the involuntary slave trade), it would increase
further in the 19th century. Manning distinguishes three major types of
migration: labour migration, refugee migrations and lastly: urbanisation.
Millions of agricultural workers left the countryside and moved to the
cities causing unprecedented levels of urbanisation. This phenomenon
began in Britain in the late 18th century and spread around the world
and continues to this day in many areas.
Industrialisation encouraged migration wherever it appeared. The increasingly global economy globalised the labour market. Atlantic slave trade diminished sharply after 1820, which gave rise to self-bound contract labour migration from Europe and Asia to plantations. Also overpopulation, open agricultural frontiers and rising industrial centres attracked voluntary, encouraged and sometimes coerced migration. Moreover, migration was significantly eased by improved transportation techniques.
Between 1846 and 1940 mass migrations
occurred world wide. The size and speed of transnational migratory
movements were unprecedented. Some 55 millions of migrants moved from
Europe to America, and an additional 2,5 million moved from Asia to
America. Of this transatlantic migrations, 65% went to the United States. Other major receiving countries were Argentina, Canada, Brazil and Cuba. (see also Immigration to the United States, Italian diaspora, Irish diaspora etc.)
During this same period similar large numbers of people migrated over large distances within Asia. Southeastern Asia received 50 million migrants, mainly from India and south China. North Asia, that be Manchuria, Siberia, Central Asia and Japan together, received another 50 million. A movement that started in the 1890's with migrants from China, Russia and Korea, and was especially large due to coerced migration from the Soviet Union and Japan in the 1930s. Less is known about exact numbers of the migrations from and within Africa in this period, but Africa experienced a small nett immigration between 1850 and 1950, from a variety of originins.
Transnational labour migration reached a peak of three million migrants per year in the early twentieth century. Italy, Norway, Ireland and the Quongdong region of China were regions with especially high emigration rates during these years. This large migration flows influenced the process of nation state formation in many ways. Immigration restrictions have been developed, as well as diaspora cultures and myths that reflect the importance of migration to the foundation of certain nations, like the American melting pot. The transnational labour migration fell to a lower level from 1930s to the 1960s and then rebounded.
The twentieth century experienced also an increase in migratory flows caused by war and politics. Muslims moved from the Balkan to Turkey, while Christians moved the other way, during the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. 400.000 Jews moved to Palestine in the early twentieth century. The Russian Revolution of 1917 caused some 3 million Russians, Poles and Germans to migrate out of the Soviet Union. World War II and decolonisation also caused migrations, see below.
Patrick Manning, Migration in World History (2005) p 132-162.
Adam McKeown, 'Global migration, 1846-1940' in: Journal of Global History (june 2004).
 World War II
See World War II evacuation and expulsion for World War II forced migrations.
The Jewish diaspora across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Middle East formed from voluntary migrations, enslavement, threats of enslavement and pogroms. After the Nazis brought the Holocaust upon Jewish people in the 1940s, there was increased migration to the British Mandate of Palestine, which became the modern day state of Israel as a result of the 1947 UN Partition Plan.
Provisions of the Potsdam Agreement from 1945 signed by victorious Western Allies and the Soviet Union led to one of the largest European migrations, and definitely the largest in the 20th century. It involved the migration and resettlement of close to or over 20 million people. The largest affected group were 16.5 million Germans expelled from Eastern Europe westwards. The second largest group were Poles, millions of whom were expelled westwards from eastern Kresy region and resettled in the so-called Recovered Territories (see Allies decide Polish border in the article on the Oder-Neisse line). Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians and some Belorussians were in the meantime expelled eastwards, from Poland to the Soviet Union. Finally, many of the several hundred thousand Jews remaining in the Eastern Europe after the Holocaust migrated outside Europe to Israel.
- See also: Minorities in Poland after the War