WHEN I FINISHED MY LAST BOOK, which was published in January 2001, I vowed that the next one would be shorter and would be published much more quickly than its predecessor. Now it’s a decade later, and I’m just completing that next book. But I try to look at the bright side. Over a period of ten years, I have made many friends and accumulated many debts. Now I can finally take the opportunity to thank some of the people whose kind assistance along the way has been indispensable.
For someone who was trained in U.S. history and who has written two books on American labor history, this has been a bold but risky undertaking. I wandered onto someone else’s terrain, and the good news is that I have been welcomed by some of the very best historians in the field of Irish history. I must begin with my friend and mentor Kevin Whelan, who is one of the most brilliant scholars and generous individuals I have met in my lifetime. It would take up too much space to enumerate the ways large and small in which Kevin has facilitated the evolution of this book. But I must try—however inadequately—to express my gratitude.
Perry Curtis has also been a generous ally and friend. His Apes and Angels, first published in 1971, remains the starting point for studying the evolution of English stereotypes of the “wild” and “savage” Irish. Perry has read many of my chapters with great care and critical acumen; he has also shared many a story over our semiregular get-togethers at the Dirt Cowboy Café in Hanover, New Hampshire. It’s nice to have one of your most knowledgeable critics as a neighbor.
I owe a word of thanks to a number of other colleagues and friends as well. For nearly two decades Alex Bontemps has taken on the task of reading just about everything I have written, and his friendship and critical insight have been a special gift. David Brody, my mentor in American labor history, read several chapters and offered a number of critical suggestions that I probably should have taken on board more than I did. Leslie Butler provided detailed and very astute criticisms of my chapters on Ireland, slavery, and abolition. Tim Meagher read several chapters and challenged me on an important point of interpretation. In retrospect, I’m grateful that he stood his ground. Brian Hanley and I have shared many meals, ideas, and resources ever since we first met in Dublin in the summer of 2002. Irene Whelan’s generosity and her unrelenting belief in my work have provided great comfort and reassurance at critical moments along the way. Thanks also to the staff of Notre Dame’s Keough-Naughton Irish Studies Centre in Dublin for their unfailing warmth