Forced migration has always existed and yet societies and policy makers are regularly surprised by the arrival of refugees. Examining refugee protection from a historical perspective forces us to rethink some of the fundamental concepts and categories for the present. We can see how perceptions about refugees, refuge, and protection are repeated throughout centuries to the present day and yet are intricately intertwined in the social and political constellations of their times.
This timeline brings historiography and historical reflection into refugee studies. Based on a special issue, it engages with two specific aspects of refugee history. Rather than focusing on historical episodes of displacement and flight and its variations throughout history, tracing changes of political and religious persecution and of conflicts and wars as drivers of forced migration, it concentrates on the history of refugee protection. The authors discuss rationales for receiving non-members in a community and the arguments put forward to protect foreigners. Moreover, they analyse the strategic, political and ethical norms behind those arguments and the practical implications of protection.