In the course of human history, the concept of “foreigner” has evolved and changed, shaped by various factors such as geography, politics, and cultural norms. The definition of a foreigner has often been fluid, with different societies and time periods having their own criteria for identifying outsiders. In this article, we will explore the historical context of who was considered a foreigner in the past, examining different regions and eras to gain a comprehensive understanding of this complex topic.

The Ancient World

In ancient civilizations, the concept of a foreigner was often closely tied to notions of tribalism and territorial boundaries. People from neighboring regions or different ethnic groups were often seen as outsiders and treated with suspicion. For example, in ancient Egypt, foreigners were referred to as “Amu” or “Aamu,” a term used to describe non-Egyptians. These foreigners were often viewed as potential threats to the stability and cultural integrity of the Egyptian society.

In ancient Greece, the concept of a foreigner was also prevalent. The Greeks referred to foreigners as “barbarians,” a term that initially referred to those who did not speak Greek. The Greeks believed that their language was superior, and anyone who did not speak it was considered uncivilized. This perception of foreigners as barbarians persisted throughout ancient Greek history.

The Middle Ages

The Middle Ages saw the rise of feudalism and the establishment of powerful kingdoms and empires. During this period, the concept of a foreigner became more closely tied to political and religious affiliations. In Europe, for example, the Crusades led to a heightened sense of religious identity and a clear distinction between Christians and non-Christians.

Jews, in particular, were often considered foreigners during the Middle Ages. They were frequently subjected to discrimination and persecution due to their religious beliefs. In many European countries, Jews were confined to ghettos and faced various restrictions on their rights and freedoms.

Colonial Era

The colonial era marked a significant shift in the perception of foreigners. European powers embarked on voyages of exploration and colonization, encountering indigenous populations in far-flung regions of the world. These encounters often resulted in the subjugation and exploitation of native peoples, who were considered foreigners in their own lands.

For example, during the era of European colonialism in Africa, indigenous populations were treated as foreigners by the colonizers. The Europeans imposed their own cultural, political, and economic systems on the native peoples, often disregarding their traditions and customs. This led to the marginalization and oppression of indigenous communities.

Modern Times

In modern times, the concept of a foreigner has become more complex and nuanced. Globalization and advancements in transportation and communication have made the world more interconnected than ever before. As a result, the boundaries between nations have become more porous, and the definition of a foreigner has expanded.

Today, a foreigner is typically defined as someone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of a particular country. However, this definition can vary depending on the context. For example, in some countries, individuals who are born in the country but have parents from different nationalities may still be considered foreigners.


1. Were there any exceptions to the perception of foreigners in ancient civilizations?

Yes, there were exceptions to the perception of foreigners in ancient civilizations. In some cases, foreigners who brought valuable skills or knowledge were welcomed and integrated into society. For example, in ancient Egypt, skilled craftsmen from other regions were often invited to work on important construction projects.

2. How did the perception of foreigners change during the Renaissance?

The Renaissance marked a period of intellectual and cultural revival in Europe. During this time, there was a greater appreciation for the exchange of ideas and knowledge. As a result, the perception of foreigners became more positive, with scholars and artists from different countries being celebrated for their contributions.

3. How did the concept of a foreigner evolve during the age of imperialism?

During the age of imperialism, the concept of a foreigner became closely tied to notions of race and ethnicity. European powers considered indigenous populations in colonized territories as foreigners, often justifying their subjugation and exploitation based on racial superiority.

4. How has globalization impacted the perception of foreigners?

Globalization has led to increased cultural exchange and migration, blurring the lines between different nationalities. As a result, the perception of foreigners has become more fluid and inclusive. Many countries now embrace multiculturalism and recognize the contributions of immigrants to their societies.

Being considered a foreigner can have legal implications, as it often determines an individual’s rights and privileges in a particular country. Foreigners may be subject to immigration laws, visa requirements, and restrictions on employment and access to social services.


The concept of a foreigner has evolved throughout history, shaped by various factors such as geography, politics, and cultural norms. In ancient civilizations, foreigners were often viewed with suspicion and treated as potential threats. During the Middle Ages, religious and political affiliations played a significant role in defining who was considered a foreigner. The colonial era saw the subjugation of indigenous populations, who were considered foreigners in their own lands. In modern times, globalization has made the world more interconnected, expanding the definition of a foreigner. Understanding the historical context of who was considered a foreigner in the past helps us appreciate the progress made in embracing diversity and inclusivity in the present day.

Sanaya Patel
Sanaya Patеl is an еxpеriеncеd tеch writеr and AI еagеr to focus on computеr vision and imagе procеssing. With a background in computеr sciеncе and еxpеrtisе in AI algorithms, Sanaya has contributеd to rising computеr vision applications.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here