Refugees in Britain and elsewhere today evoke fearful and harsh responses from governments and broad sections of the population. In this lecture, Professor Lucassen argues that this fierce antipathy has deep roots in nineteenth and early twentieth century racial thought in the Atlantic world. These ideas, he argues, have resurfaced in the twenty-first century in the form of ‘replacement theory’: namely, the notion that the white population in Europe and the United States is being supplanted by non-white populations. This process, claim advocates of the theory, is the outcome of a deliberate policy on the part of elites. In some versions these elites are characterized and attacked as Jewish and ‘replacement theory’ takes an antisemitic form. Far from being a new phenomenon, Leo Lucassen argues, ‘replacement theory’ amounts to an old set of ideas in a new package.
Leo Lucassen is Director of the International Institute of Social History (IISH) in Amsterdam and Professor of Global Labour and Migration History at Leiden University. He is member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and has published widely on the longue durée of global migrations, the history of antisemitism and racism, social engineering and urban history. His latest book (2021, with Jan Lucassen) is a migration history of Amsterdam since the late sixteenth century.