About the Atlantic Irish

This blog is run by two academics who work on the Irish in the Atlantic World. We post stories and comments on aspects of Irish migration in the Atlantic World.

Collaborating on various projects has led us to explore recurring themes in the history of Irish migration on either side of the Atlantic: settlement and community building; religion and politics; work and leisure; ethnicity, conflict and violence. We are struck by the many recurring themes and the similarities in Irish experiences in Britain and  North America.

We believe that there is still value in studying Irish issues in an Atlantic context. Ireland’s recent troubles with the EU and the Euro and the huge welcomes for Barack and Michelle Obama (along with the tenuous claiming of the 44th President of the United States as an ‘Irish American’) reinforce what former deputy prime minister Mary Harney controversially stated in 2000: ‘Geographically we [the Irish] are closer to Berlin than Boston’ but ‘spiritually, we are closer to Boston.’ Her comment created a storm of outrage in 2000 but increasing dislike of Germany and its government would make this sentiment less controversial today. The recent economic downturn has also increased emigration from Ireland with large numbers seeking work again in the UK and North America. From a government perspective this issue seemed to have been solved in the boom years of the ‘Celtic Tiger,’ but now the Irish government watches with interest immigration legislation in the United States hoping that the thousands of Irish among America’s 14 million ‘undocumented aliens’ will be granted legal status. Along with renewed migration, issues ranging from military stopovers at Shannon airport to Google and Apple running their corporate taxes through Ireland, indicate that Ireland remains part of an Atlantic World connecting Europe with North America. As predominantly social historians of the long nineteenth century (1775-1920) we hope to highlight historical contexts and examples that may contribute toward understanding these contemporary Atlantic issues. We believe that the Atlantic World did not end for Ireland with the collapse of European empires in the New World between the 1780s and the 1820s but remained and remains an important way of examining Ireland both at home and abroad.

David Gleeson is an expert on the Irish in the 19th century American southern states. He is the author of The Green and the Gray: The Irish in the Confederate States of America, which has just been published in the Civil War America Series by the University of North Carolina Press. He can be followed on Twitter @dgleesonhistory

Don MacRaild’s specialism is the Irish in Britain, also in the 19th century. He is author of many books and articles, including The Irish Diaspora in Britain, 1750-1939 (2010) published by Palgrave Macmillan. Don can be followed on Twitter @cliosceptic


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