Most refugee crises I am aware of happened since the turn of the 20th century. Is there any documented history of refugee crises before? Do we know if wars comparable in intensity and casualties before the 20th century caused similar magnitudes of refugees? If not, what were some of the reasons?

Here is an interesting visual but it only covers since WW2.

  • 6
    One of the largest in Jewish history (albeit not resultant of war) was the expulsion of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula at the end of the 15th century. Approximately 80,000 Jews (the numbers are disputed) sought asylum elsewhere in Europe, many flooding into Italy and the Netherlands in particular.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 20:03
  • 4
    Babylonian exile? The elimination of the angles by the Saxons? The harrying of the North? The Irish Potato famine? British patriots displaced by the US revolutionary war? The Mongols? Ireland? There is something I'm not understanding about this quesiton.
    – MCW
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 20:28
  • 2
    I'm not sure what confuses you. I was asking about pre 20th century history of refugee crises. your comment lists some examples but is condescending in the way that it presumes i should know about those events already, which i didn't. so it is helpful but in a condescending way
    – amphibient
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 20:31
  • 3
    Why the downvote? I think this is an excellent question: it concerns history and it asks for documentation. Not sure how it could be improved, to be honest.
    – Shimon bM
    Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 21:48
  • 2
    There was no shortage of pogroms and expulsions of Jews in the past. The Romani had a bunch of those too, on a shorter time scale. The expulsion of the Moriscos also comes to mind. If you dig deep enough you'll come across all sorts of colorful examples of displaced populations: invader moves in for some reason or another, or a disaster arrives (Maya? Indus Valley? Petroglyph Sites?), and off goes the existing population. Commented Jan 26, 2017 at 21:49

2 Answers 2


In addition to all the examples listed in the comments:

One of the most famous and studied example is the Visigoths, Ostrogoths (and other tribes) fleeing the Huns in the 4-5th centuries AD and entering the Roman empire. Any book covering fall of the (Western) Roman empire will discuss this in great detail.


The Zoroastrian emigration from Persia to Bombay is one.

See this article for more details: Parsi (Wikipedia).

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.