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Ireland's New Worlds

Immigrants, Politics, and Society in the United States and Australia, 1815–1922

Malcolm Campbell

Publication Year: 2008

In the century between the Napoleonic Wars and the Irish Civil War, more than seven million Irish men and women left their homeland to begin new lives abroad. While the majority settled in the United States, Irish emigrants dispersed across the globe, many of them finding their way to another “New World,” Australia.
    Ireland’s New Worlds is the first book to compare Irish immigrants in the United States and Australia. In a profound challenge to the national histories that frame most accounts of the Irish diaspora, Malcolm Campbell highlights the ways that economic, social, and cultural conditions shaped distinct experiences for Irish immigrants in each country, and sometimes in different parts of the same country. From differences in the level of hostility that Irish immigrants faced to the contrasting economies of the United States and Australia, Campbell finds that there was much more to the experiences of Irish immigrants than their essential “Irishness.” America’s Irish, for example, were primarily drawn into the population of unskilled laborers congregating in cities, while Australia’s Irish, like their fellow colonialists, were more likely to engage in farming. Campbell shows how local conditions intersected with immigrants’ Irish backgrounds and traditions to create surprisingly varied experiences in Ireland’s new worlds. 
Outstanding Book, selected by the American Association of School Librarians, and Best Books for Special Interests, selected by the Public Library Association

“Well conceived and thoroughly researched . . . . This clearly written, thought-provoking work fulfills the considerable ambitions of comparative migration studies.”—Choice

Published by: University of Wisconsin Press


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pp. v

List of Illustrations

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pp. vi

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Preface and Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-xiii

IN THE PERIOD FROM 1815 TO 1922, approximately 7.5 million men, women, and children emigrated from Ireland to commence new lives abroad. The majority settled permanently in the United States; smaller numbers dispersed elsewhere, to constitute significant minorities in the population of Great Britain and the colonies of the British Empire. By the standards of contemporaneous European migrations, remarkably few Irish emigrants returned home.

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1. Contrasting Fortunes: Irish Lives from 1815 to the Famine

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pp. 3-36

IN THEIR BROAD DESIGNS, immigrants' lives are molded by the prevailing economic conditions and social patterns of their new host society. For this reason, Irish emigrants embarking in 1815 upon the transoceanic journey to the United States had strong grounds to feel optimistic about their futures. Notwithstanding doubts and emotional anxieties elicited by their abandonment of the Old World, and ...

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2. Crisis and Despair: The Famine and Its Aftermath

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pp. 37-64

BY THE EVE OF THE IRISH FAMINE, THE crucial outlines of the Irish immigrant experience in the United States and Australia were set in place. In America, the profound economic and ideological transformations that accompanied the market revolution struck the post- 1815 Irish arrivals with peculiar severity, so that by the time of the “Great Hunger” their economic standing and social reputation were inferior to those of any other major European immigrant group.

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3. Irish Rural Life: Minnesota and New South Wales Compared

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pp. 65-84

WHILE THE VAST MAJORITY OF mid-nineteenth- century Irish immigrants settled adjacent to the United States eastern seaboard, a minority moved away from the nation’s emerging urban centers to pursue lives in the agricultural lands of the West. However, the history of these rural Irish, unlike that of their countrymen and women who took to farming in Australia, remains at present very much underdeveloped.

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4. The Pacific Irish: California and Eastern Australia

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pp. 85-103

IN THE SIXTY YEARS SINCE THE publication of Oscar Handlin’s Boston’s Immigrants, most historical writing on the Irish in the United States has focused on the lives and experiences of those immigrants who settled in cities along the northeastern seaboard. In the main, historians have concentrated their attention on the Catholic Irish who settled adjacent to the Atlantic coast between the onset of the Irish Famine ...

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5. New Worlds Converge: Immigrants, Nationalisms, and Sectarian Cultures

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pp. 104-131

THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR challenged Irish immigrants and those of Irish descent to demonstrate their overriding loyalty and commitment to their new society. The rallying call was answered on both sides of the terrible divide, and Irish soldiers fought with valor and distinction in the armies of the Union and the Confederacy. Through their display of heroism on the battlefield, the Irish won a short-term reprieve ...

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6. Call of the New: Irish Worlds in the Late Nineteenth Century

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pp. 132-158

IN THE PERIOD OF TWO DECADES, from 1841 to 1861, Ireland’s population fell by nearly 30 percent, from 8.2 million to 5.8 million. However, to the dismay of Irish nationalists, the end of the Great Famine did not halt the decline of the population, and in the following half century the number of people residing in Ireland continued to fall. By 1911 Ireland’s population was 4.4 million, about half the ...

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7. Casting Off Ties: 1914 to the Irish Civil War

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pp. 159-182

THROUGHOUT THE COURSE OF THE nineteenth century, North America and Australia were profoundly affected by the large-scale immigration of Irish men and women. However, on the eve of World War I, the great torrent of nineteenth-century emigration had slowed. The returns of the registrar general, though deeply and systematically flawed, indicate that in the period 1901–10 the level of decennial ...

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pp. 183-185

COMPARATIVE HISTORY RARELY provides hard and fast answers—its principal power is to stimulate new questions and bring to bear new perspectives on a subject. Through a process of comparison, this book has demonstrated that explanations grounded in Irish migrants’ origins, prior historical experiences, or cultural legacies, are in themselves inadequate explanations for their diverse ...


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pp. 189


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pp. 191-218

Select Bibliography

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pp. 219-241


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pp. 243-249

E-ISBN-13: 9780299223335
Print-ISBN-13: 9780299223342

Publication Year: 2008