School navigation


53rd Annual Arthur L. Throckmorton Memorial Lecture

Date: 5:00pm PST March 7, 2016 Location: Templeton Campus Center, Council Chamber

Templeton Campus Center, Council Chamber

The Great Departure: Emigration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World
Beginning in the nineteenth century millions of East Europeans departed from home in search of work or in flight from war and persecution. How did these departures shape the individuals, families, and societies left behind? And how did governments respond to the exodus of so many workers, citizens, and soldiers?  Across the rise and fall of empires and nation-states, dictatorships and democracies, attempts to manage mass emigration gave rise to new forms of border control, ethnic cleansing, social protection, colonial ambitions, and humanitarian activism. It also precipitated a fundamental debate about the meaning of freedom.

During the Cold War, in particular, mobility came to be seen as a fundamental measure of freedom and human rights. Nothing symbolized the brutality and bankruptcy of Communist governments more than the walls and guns that imprisoned people in their own states. But the Iron Curtain did not simply drop from the sky in 1948 or 1961. Its foundation was laid decades earlier, when anti-emigration activists in Eastern Europe mobilized to stop the hemorraghing loss of population to the West. While many migrants insisted that they were leaving home in search of freedom and prosperity, these East Europeans claimed that emigration actually delivered citizens to new forms of slavery. The debate about leaving home ultimately shaped competing views of the meaning of freedom itself- one linked to individual geographic and social mobility and another centered on social solidarity and the freedom to stay home.

Tara Zahra is a Professor of East European History at the University of Chicago, where she is also a co-Chair of the Pozen Center for Human Rights and a member of the Center for Jewish Studies and the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality. Her research and teaching focus on the transnational and comparative history of modern Europe; East Central Europe; migration, childhood and the family, nationalism, and European international history.  Her most recent book, The Great Departure: Mass Migration from Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World will be published by W.W. Norton Press in 2016. She is also the author of Kidnapped Souls: National Indifference and the Battle for Children in the Bohemian Lands, 1900-1948 (Cornell, 2008, paperback, 2011) and The Lost Children: Reconstructing Europe’s Families after World War II (Harvard, 2011, paperback, 2015). Zahra has been the recipient of several book prizes and fellowships, including a 2014 Macarthur Fellowship.

The Throckmorton lecture was established in 1963 to commemorate the life and work of Arthur L. Throckmorton, a professor of history at Lewis & Clark who died unexpectedly in 1962. Each year the series brings a distinguished historian to campus to lecture and to meet with faculty and students.


Event Cost

Free and open to the public


Contact Us