Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910

Article excerpt

Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910. By David M. Emmons. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 2010. Pp. viii, 472. $34.95. ISBN 978-0-806-14128-2.)

The present book began life as a "relatively uncomplicated account of western Irish," but soon transformed itself into a "cluttered storyline of a people beyond a cultural as well as a geographical pale" (p. 460). To fully develop his thoughts, writes the author, the University of Oklahoma Press allowed him a larger than usual word limit. The result is a large, dynamic book about a people, a religion, a region, and a culture. Happily, this hefty volume is exceptionally well written.

An earlier book by David Emmons, The Butte Irish (Urbana, IL, 1989), is considered a model for the study of an ethnic group located in a specific town or region. Researching and writing Beyond the American Pale allowed Emmons to draw wider conclusions about the Irish by extending his field of vision to many different western locations. How deep is the research? The author has considered the influence of the Irish in 210 western cities or settlements, eighty-two mining locations, and ten railroad towns.

Emmons begins his task with enthusiasm in the introduction by debunking some assumptions about Irish immigration to America. Next, he examines some exaggerated myths about the West. All of this is relevant to "Part I. Unwelcome Strangers: the Irish and the American West," the first five chapters in this two-part book. Among the most interesting considerations advanced by Emmons are the attitudes by the Irish immigrants toward slaves and Indians - two minority groups with whom they could identify. In the mind of many Americans, for example, rigid Catholicism was a form of slavery. …

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