Mass migration refers to the movement of a large group of people from one geographical area to another, as distinguished from individual, smaller scale or seasonal migrations that occur all the time. See human migration for more information about the phenomenon of migration in general.
Several specific mass migrations that are seen as especially influential to the course of history, may be referred to as a Great Migration. Examples include the Barbarian invasions in the Roman Empire, the Great Migration from England to the "new world" in the 1630s, the California Gold Rush during 1848 to 1850, and the Great Migration of African Americans from the rural American south to the industrial north during the period between 1920 and 1950.
Migration historians often identify an 'age of mass migration', roughly between 1840 and 1914 (or 1940), in which long distance migration occurred at an unprecedented and exceptionally high scale. It usually refers to the voluntary transatlantic migration, of mainly European peasants and labourers to the American continent. However, Adam McKeown argues it should refer to the world wide mass migrations that occurred in the same period, since similar large numbers of people migrated long distances within the Asian continent such as the Pakistan movement
It should be noted that mass migration does not necessarily means voluntary movement. The Atlantic slave trade is a well-known example of coerced mass migration, but also mass deportations, such as the Jews and other people to the German concentration camps in Poland, deportations to the Gulag, coolie-labour in Southeast Asia and the Caribbean.
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