Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree
There seems to be no end to the writing of history books. Kindles, Nooks and the corner bookshops are thick with them. So numerous are brand new histories of this, that and the other thing that they threaten to crowd out and supplant the work of previous generations.
But not Oscar Handlin’s celebrated 1951 account of the immigrant experience, which he evocatively titled “The Uprooted.” In its 300 pages, Handlin, who died just the other day at the age of 95, put immigration at the center of modern America rather than at its margins, where it had long resided, and in the process created a brand new field: immigration history.
In prose that often verged on the lyrical — or, as one enamored reviewer characterized it, writing with the “grave, moving eloquence of the Psalmist” — the Brooklyn-born, Harvard historian trained his sights on the cultural, economic, religious and social costs of transplantation, on the “thousand trials” that awaited immigrants from Eastern Europe, Ireland and Italy.
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