Enterprising Émigrés of the Channel Islands

French Economic Migration under “Refugeedom” during the French Revolution

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Sydney Watts University of Richmond, USA swatts@richmond.edu

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During the French Revolution, thousands of French refugees migrated through the Channel borderlands. At least four thousand settled there. The Channel Island of Jersey served as the loci of migration where economic life operated under “refugeedom,” a polity both apart from and particular to state authority. Refugeedom—in its alterity—suggests a matrix of economic conditions, legal codes, and social relations that can explain the lives of people in the French Revolution's emigration. This study of economic migration offers a way to reframe the French emigration as opportunism and resilience. Refugeedom serves as the analytic framework to understand economic migration, not only as a political crisis of displaced people in the midst of revolution—those seeking refuge from war, persecution, famine, and other hardships—but also as part of a strategy of survival, one that includes the economic migration of labor.

Contributor Notes

Sydney Watts is Associate Professor of History at the University of Richmond. Her current book-length project focuses on the Channel Islands during the Revolutionary Era, 1789–1815. ORCID: 0000-0002-5841-2767 Email: swatts@richmond.edu

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