Dirk Hoerder, Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002), 792 pp., $85.
Writing in 2002, it is all too easy to argue that terrorism is now and will remain for decades the most serious issue. This, however, is not only a very present-minded approach, but one based on a less than profound assessment of current pressures and developments. To start with the micro-picture, even in the case of American strategic interests and engagements, it is by no means clear that issues in Southwest Asia are or will be more significant than points of tension in East Asia or even in the Caribbean basin. Consideration of such issues also benefits from being located in a wider context. Over recent decades those on offer have been ideological (the Cold War and, now, the supposed culture clash with Islam) or resource-based (now presented in terms of globalization pressures). Both are noteworthy, but it is also worth drawing attention to the extent to which relatively large movements of people from country to country are having both a specific effect in particular countries and a cumulative impact on international and domestic politics.
Dirk Hoerder's new book, Cultures in Contact, provides a mass of information on migration patterns over the last century and beyond. Hoerder is professor of history at the University of Bremen, and his written style is naturally somewhat Germanic: lightness of touch is not a feature of his prose and there is scant humor on offer to lighten the load. Nevertheless, this is a formidable piece of work. It is of particular importance because Hoerder shows in great detail that it is necessary to move from a focus on the Atlantic migration system in order to give due weight to migration flows in Asia, Africa and the Pacific world.