Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680-1830

Article excerpt

Ulster to America: The Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680-1830 * Edited by Warren R. Hofstra * Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2012 * xxviii, 264 pp. * $45.00

Its title notwithstanding, Uhter to America: the Scots-Irish Migration Experience, 1680-1830 is not really about migration at all. Few of the essays in this collection actually explore the process by which ScotsIrish settlers moved to and within British North America or the effects of that experience upon the Scots-Irish themselves. Instead, most focus on particular Scots-Irish communities at distinct places and times.

The book opens and closes with more general discussions of the Scots-Irish during the long eighteenth century, but between these bookends are eight vignettes of specific Scots-Irish communities. Each of these eight chapters focuses on a particular example, such as Donegal Springs, Pennsylvania, during the 1720s and '30s, Virginias Opequon Settlement between 1730 and 1770, and Kentucky during the final quarter of the eighteenth century. And what all of these essays have in common is an emphasis on community. The Scots-Irish depicted in Ukter to America are not the hard-drinking, hard-fighting, anti-authoritarian types who make up "the myth of the Scots-Irish [that] has been put to work in the service of numerous conservative causes" (p. xv). The Scots-Irish in Ulster to America are hard-working, God-fearing folk who built new homes for themselves in what was becoming the United States. In doing so, they established and promoted both nuclear and extended families; organized extensive networks of churches, schools, and fraternal or political organizations; and forged deep political and economic ties with other Scots-Irish and with their English, German, and Native American neighbors.

This emphasis on community, however, does not mean that the essays gathered in Ukter to America agree about the nature of that community. This is evident, even, in the terminology used by the authors to identify the people about whom they are writing; seven use the term Scotch-Irish to describe their subject, while four employ Scots-Irish. …