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Coming to America: The Making of the Irish-American Diaspora

Updated Tuesday, 14 March 2023

Why did the Irish emigrate to America in such vast numbers for over three centuries? What was their experience in America? What impact did they make on American life?

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In this series of articles, Michael Doorley tells the fascinating story of migration from Ireland to America, a story that begins long before the Irish Famine of the 1840s and continues to be written well into the 21st century.


Articles in this collection


When the New World beckoned to the Irish in the eighteenth century, who answered the call? Find out more in...

The ‘New World’ Beckons: Irish Migration to Britain’s American Colonies


The Scots-Irish developed a certain reputation in America in the early days of immigration. How did they make their mark on American culture at this time? Find out more in...

Culture and Connections: The Scots-Irish experience in America


Irish emigration to America underwent a seismic change in the 1800s. Find out why in...

A Century of Change: Shifting Patterns in Irish Emigration in the 1800s


What did it feel like to be Irish in America over the last century and a half? Find out how the experience changed in...

Adaptation and Assimilation: The Catholic Irish experience in the United States


The Irish undoubtedly left their mark on American society. Along the frontier, Scots-Irish customs blended with that of other ethnic groups to shape American culture. Scots-Irish influences can be demonstrated in the roots of American country-music and in those frontier values of hard work and thrift so embodied in William Holmes McGuffey’s school texts and readers.

In turn, the Catholic Irish introduced greater religious diversity to the United States. Although they arrived at a time when the United States was an overwhelmingly Protestant country and were not always welcome, they gradually gained acceptance in American society while still retaining elements of their culture and religion. By doing so, the Irish, like other racial and ethnic groups, helped to shape an evolving American culture more tolerant of diversity.


References

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National identity in Britain and Ireland, 1780–1840. Open University. https://www.open.edu/openlearn/history-the-arts/national-identity-britain-and-ireland-17801840/content-section-2

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Doorley, M. (2000), ‘Irish Catholics and French Creoles: ethnic struggles within the Catholic Church in New Orleans, 1825-1920’, in The Catholic Historical Review, 1 (Jan. 2001), 34-54.

Doorley, M., (2019), Justice Daniel Cohalan,1865-1946: American patriot and Irish-American nationalist, Cork: Cork University Press. 

Dwyer-Ryan, M. (2013), ‘Irish Protestants and Irish Protestant Americans to 1870’, in R. Barkan (ed.), Immigrants in American History: Arrival, adaptation, and integration Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

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Wokeck, S. (1999) Trade in Strangers: The Beginning of Mass Migration to North America, Pennsylvania State University Press.

 

 

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