AS STUDIES OF DIASPORAS, migration and identities proliferate, the need for a full-length historical survey of the Irish in Liverpool, the 'foodgate of the old world', becomes more urgent. The most significant 'ethnic' group in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century pre-multi-cultural Britain, the Irish in Liverpool were also one of the most sizeable and pivotal Irish formations within the Irish diaspora. Based on extensive archival research, this book highlights the complex interplay of cultural and structural factors experienced by migrants who remained in the port of entry, 'the nearest place that wasn't Ireland', as they acquired a distinctive hybrid hyphenated identity as Liverpool-Irish.
At the hub of the Irish diaspora, the Liverpool-Irish cannot be studied in isolation from their migrant compatriots who continued on their travels. Remaining in the 'last seaport of the Old World', the Irish in Liverpool jostled in cosmopolitan (if not always harmonious) inter-cultural action alongside a range of other 'moving Europeans' as well as innumerable seafaring and trading groups from across the 'black Atlantic' and the oceans beyond. Hence, in line with the best practice commended by historians responding to the challenge of globalisation theory and transnational sociology, this study of Irish migrants offers some 'divergent' and 'convergent' comparative reflections: it recognises the need for migration (or mobility) history that 'combines the diasporic or transnational with the comparative or cross-national'.1 Liverpool itself, proverbially a city apart in British historiography, needs to be considered in
1 For useful introductions to the latest theoretical and methodological developments, see
the papers by Nancy L. Green, 'The comparative method and poststructural structuralism:
New perspectives for migration studies', in J. Lucassen and L. Lucassen, eds, Migration,
Migration History, History: Old Paradigms and New Perspectives, Berne, 1997, pp.57–72, and
'Time and the study of assimilation', Rethinking History, 10, 2006, pp.239–58. See also,
Donna R. Gabaccia, 'Do we still need immigration history?', Polish American Studies, 15,
1998, pp.45–68; and Kevin Kenny, 'Diaspora and comparison: The global Irish as a case
study', Journal of American History, 90, 2003, pp.134–62.