Philipp Ther, “The Outsiders: Refugees in Europe since 1492”

European history has been permeated with refugees. The Outsiders chronicles every major refugee movement since 1492, when the Catholic rulers of Spain set in motion the first mass flight and expulsion in modern European history. Philipp Ther provides needed perspective on today’s “refugee crisis,” demonstrating how Europe has taken in far greater numbers of refugees in earlier periods of its history, in wartime as well as peacetime. His sweeping narrative crosses the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, taking readers from the Middle East to the shores of America.

In this compelling book, Ther examines the major causes of mass flight, from religious intolerance and ethnic cleansing to political persecution and war. He describes the perils and traumas of flight and explains why refugees and asylum seekers have been welcomed in some periods—such as during the Cold War—and why they are rejected in times such as our own. He also examines the afterlives of the refugees in the receiving countries, which almost always benefited from admitting them. Tracing the lengthy routes of the refugees, he reconceptualizes Europe as a unit of geography and historiography. Turning to the history of refugees in the United States, Ther also discusses the anti-refugee politics of the Trump administration, explaining why they are un-American and bad for the country.

By setting mass flight against fifteen biographical case studies, and drawing on his subjects’ experiences, itineraries, and personal convictions, Ther puts a human face on a global phenomenon that concerns all of us.



Philipp Ther is professor of Central European history at the University of Vienna. His books include Europe since 1989: A History (Princeton), The Dark Side of Nation-States: Ethnic Cleansing in Modern Europe, and Center Stage: Operatic Culture and Nation Building in Nineteenth-Century Central Europe. He lives in Vienna.



“Ther’s book is indispensable reading for anybody interested in the history of flight and migration in Europe. It also confirms how important a longue durée approach is to understanding all the recent conflicts surrounding refugee politics. Once more, Ther has managed to write a Pan-European book, although the specter extends far beyond, across the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.”—Włodzimierz Borodziej, author of The Warsaw Uprising of 1944

“A stimulating and informative read. The Outsiders is probably the most complete story of population movements in Europe’s modern era ever written.”—John Connelly, author of From Enemy to Brother: The Revolution in Catholic Teaching on the Jews, 1933–1965

“Philipp Ther has written a comprehensive and humane history essential for understanding what has become the most divisive issue in European and American politics today—the claims of the millions of refugees uprooted from their homelands and seeking sanctuary across borders. From the Spanish expulsions of 1492 to the crisis in Syria today, The Outsiders sheds light on why refugees fled and the contradictory policies with which they were greeted.”—Charles S. Maier, author of Once within Borders: Territories of Power, Wealth, and Belonging since 1500

“Providing needed perspective on an issue that looms large on the global agenda, Philipp Ther’s engaging book is the definitive historical account of the legal, demographic, and humanitarian aspects of refugee crises in Europe over the course of five hundred years.”—Maria Todorova, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

“This is a brilliant and important book that takes the current European refugee crisis as a point of departure for exploring the longer history of refugees to and from Europe. The Outsiders is highly original in its approach to contemporary history and exceptionally valuable in its historical treatment of the refugee phenomenon.”—Larry Wolff, author of The Singing Turk



The Outsiders: Refugees in Europe since 1492

Philipp Ther


Translated by Jeremiah Riemer


The history of Europe as a continent of refugees


Princeton University Press

Published: 11/26/2019

Pages: 304