“An Extraordinary Episode in the Economic Progress of Man!”: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-1914"

Six Migrants and Their Descendants Who Made History: Yet Another Outtake from "Slouching Towards Utopia?: An Economic History of the Long Twentieth Century, 1870-2016"


Il Quarto Stato

Six migrants and their descendants who made a lot of our history:

  1. One whose move proceeded the great 1870-1914 wave as migration became really cheap—was Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), immigrated to America from Scotland in 1848. He was perhaps the champion of upward mobility: his father was a subsistence-level handloom weaver, and he become the world’s premier steelmaster and perhaps the second richest person in the world. The United States’s openness to those who might become Andrew Carnegies (as long as they came from Europe and not Asia or Africa) and the United States’s standing—then—as an economy of very easy massive upward mobility were key preconditions for the twentieth century to become a truly American Century.

  2. Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), who migrated from India to Britain to study at the Inner Temple from 1888-1891 and then to South Africa in 1893, where he stayed for 21 years. Only then did he return to lead the movement to win independence from the British Empire for India. The claim is that he sailed to South Africa thinking of himself as a British Empire citizen first and an Indian second. He returned—impelled both by what he had seen of gathering apartheid in South Africa and what he had learned about the rights and dignity of humanity in England—convinced that the British Empire must end. And Gandhi was willing to do something about it.

  3. David Leontyevich Bronstein (1847–1922), who with his wife Anna Lvovna Zhivotovskaya (1850-1910) crossed the the greatest river he had ever seen and moved 200 miles out of the forest and into the grasslands—which had been horse-nomad lands within historical memory—to pioneer one of the richest agriculture soils in the world: it was fifteen miles from his farm in Yanovka to the nearest post office. David and Anna’s fifth child, Lev Davidovich Bronstein (1879-1940), called Trotsky, was truly to shake history into a previously inconceivable course.

  4. Jennie Jerome (1854-1921), who made a reverse migration: from Brooklyn, New York, United States to Westminster, England to marry Lord Randolph Spencer-Churchill, becoming engaged in 1873 three days after their first meeting at a sailing regatta on the Isle of Wight. Their marriage was then delayed for seven months while her father Leonard the financier and speculator and his father John Winston the seventh Duke of Marlborough argued over how much money she would bring to the marriage, and how it would be safeguarded. The Duke of Marlborough in the end offered to the couple £1000—5000 then, the equivalent perhaps of —a year; financier-speculator Leonard Jerome in the end offered to the couple £3000—15000 dollars—a year, one third of which would be under Jennie Jerome’s control. The total commitment of £4000 a year back then was the same multiple of average American income per capita as 6,000,000 dollars a year would be today—roughly at the bottom of the richest 2000 couples in America, or the richest 200 in Greater New York, or the richest 100 in Greater San Francisco or Los Angeles.

  5. Nikola Tesla (1856-1943), who left Croatia and his wished-for parental destiny as a Serbian Orthodox priest to Graz, Austria, Budapest, Paris, and then New York to become the most brilliant electrical engineer ever.

  6. ixth was Herbert Hoover (1874-1967). Born in 1874 in Iowa, orphaned at 10, in 1885 he started moving west—first to Oregon to live with an uncle; second to California as the first student to attend Stanford University (then free) where he became a mining engineer, graduating in 1895 in the distressed aftermath of the Panic of 1893. His first job was as a mine laborer in Grass Valley at 600 dollars a year, his next as an intern and special assistant to mining engineer Louis Janin at 2400 dollars a year. Then in 1897 he crossed the Pacific to first Australia, working for Bewick, Moreing for 7000 dollars a year, and then China at 20,000 a year and up to make his fortune. From 1901 to 1917 his base was London, as he worked in and managed investments in Australia, China, Russia, Burma, Italy, and Central America in addition to the United States. In 1917 he moved back to America.

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