The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880

The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880

The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880

The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880

Synopsis

Though Ireland is a relatively small island on the northeastern fringe of the Atlantic, 70 million people worldwide--including some 45 million in the United States--claim it as their ancestral home. In this wide-ranging, ambitious book, Cian T. McMahon explores the nineteenth-century roots of this transnational identity. Between 1840 and 1880, 4.5 million people left Ireland to start new lives abroad. Using primary sources from Ireland, Australia, and the United States, McMahon demonstrates how this exodus shaped a distinctive sense of nationalism. By doggedly remaining loyal to both their old and new homes, he argues, the Irish helped broaden the modern parameters of citizenship and identity.

From insurrection in Ireland to exile in Australia to military service during the American Civil War, McMahon's narrative revolves around a group of rebels known as Young Ireland. They and their fellow Irish used weekly newspapers to construct and express an international identity tailored to the fluctuating world in which they found themselves. Understanding their experience sheds light on our contemporary debates over immigration, race, and globalization.

Excerpt

As global capitalism hit full stride in the mid-nineteenth century, its inherent paradoxes came to fruition. While connecting people around the world in new ways, capitalism also disrupted preexisting networks of power and community. Notions of nationhood shifted accordingly. Some drew inward, seeking solidarity in heritage and race. Others looked outward, building unity on ideals and values. The four and a half million Irish people who migrated around the world between 1840 and 1880 were caught in this modern dilemma. Loyal to both their old and new homes, they found themselves at the heart of a dialectical tug-of-war between migration and identity. This book explores their struggle to construct a flexible sense of belonging suited for the modern world.

In January 1871, Patrick Ford defined the Irish race in his New York weekly Irish World. “All Irishmen, and all Irishmen’s sons, the world over, are parts of one mighty whole,” he wrote. “Perhaps there is no other people on the face of the earth whose identity is more clearly marked and defined. There are forces of attraction, ever at work, which draw the members of our race instinctively together, and knit them into an integral body.” This supranational ethnic solidarity did not, however, preclude loyalty to the host community. Later in the year, another editorial reflected on the nature of the American population. “This people are not one,” Ford declared. “In blood, in religion, in traditions, in social and domestic habits, they are many. Leaving out the aborigines, the veritable Americans (but who are now falsely called Indians), there are the Anglo-Americans, the Franco-Americans, the Irish-Americans, the Spanish-Americans, the German-Americans, and the African-Americans.” The United States was not an assimilative melting pot but a pluralist mosaic, composed of various peoples united by the Constitution. The steady movement of vast numbers of people across national borders had created transnational communities capable of pledging dual loyalty to . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.