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The Irish in the Atlantic World ed. by David T. Gleeson (review)

From: New Hibernia Review
Volume 18. Number 1, Spring/Earrach 2014
pp. 152-154 | 10.1353/nhr.2014.0010

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In recent decades, scholars have increasingly used the paradigm of the "'Atlantic World" to understand the complex social, economic, and cultural ties binding peoples on American and European sides of the Atlantic from the Early Modern era to the present. Since its inception in the late nineteenth century, this paradigm has been recast with great frequency to understand complex trade relationships, the foundations of empires, migrations, and their impact on peoples throughout this global region. Editor David T. Gleeson's The Irish in the Atlantic World embraces this model in an effort to understand the complexities of the Irish diaspora, and its effect on the Americas and Ireland. The volume is a carefully edited compellation of diverse interdisciplinary conference papers given at the 2007 Carolina Lowcountry and the Atlantic World Conference. The cross-disciplinary approach ensures that offerings are wide enough in scope to examine the impact of the Irish in diverse American settings, while exploring relevant thematic issues. The book is divided into three sections examining the role of Ireland, the construction of Irish identity, and the Irish in the Atlantic World.

Although the Famine and British imperialism tend to dictate the exploration of nineteenth-century Ireland, The Irish in the Atlantic World seeks to reconstruct Ireland as a location influenced by larger forces. In the first section, "Ireland in the Atlantic World," the contributors consider the complex spread of larger intellectual ideas, the adverse effect of American markets on Ireland's economy, and the role of Irish consumers at home and abroad on the emerging music industry. "Mathewite Temperance in Atlantic Perspective" by Paul Townend explores the interaction of the temperance movement in Ireland and the United States, but also traces its association with the same religious radicals that had embraced abolitionism in Ireland. As Townend contends, Fr. Mathew's temperance movement brought about linkages between otherwise distinct Irish forces—such as those banding radical Protestants and Irish—who believed that Ireland would benefit from the abstinence of alcohol. And while this temperance movement was affected by external British and Atlantic contribution, this influence was not entirely unique. William H. Mulligan, Jr.'s chapter, "The Anatomy of Failure: Nineteenth-Century Irish Copper Mining in the Atlantic and Global Economy" reminds us that the Irish economy increasingly faced strong competition not only from their English counterparts (in this case from Cornish copper mines), but, more important, from emerging American markets. By the second half of the nineteenth century, the Irish copper mines could no longer compete with those of the Great Lakes in the United States. The Irish increasingly migrated to the American Atlantic; they both retained their culture (as expressed in music) and remained in contact with their Irish counterparts. Scott Spencer traces the demand for Irish music by immigrants in the Americas to efforts by music sellers and recording labels to cater to such demands, eventually even sponsoring recordings of music in Ireland itself. This transatlantic notion of Irishness was paralleled, as Bernadette Whelan explores in "The 'Idea of America' in the New Irish State, 1922-1960," by Irish perceptions of America being shaped by correspondence from Irish immigrants who portrayed the United States as a place of bounty.

Within the British Empire, Ireland found both exploitation and opportunity. Section II, "Irish Identity in the Atlantic World," examines Irish identity—and perceptions of Ireland—as these were shaped by diverse factors that evolved with time. In "'The Transmigrated Soul of the West Indian Planter:' Absenteeism, Slavery, and the Irish National Tale," Susan M. Kroeg examines how the eighteenth-century Irish West Indian experience influenced early nineteenth-century Irish literature as it examined the exploitation of Ireland by English overlords and the role of Anglo-Irish absentee West Indian planters in Ireland. Kroeg concludes that the metaphor of the Irish absentee planter was used unevenly, but it provided a context for novelists to ponder Ireland's political future and the aspiration for Home Rule. Nor were contributions to Irish identity made solely within the British Empire, as Angela F. Murphy demonstrates in "Slavery, Irish Nationalism, and Irish American Identity in the South, 1840-1845": political ideology effected both the struggle for Irish self-rule and the identity of...

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