This thesis is a study of Irish immigrants in Yorkshire and Lancashire in the period 1815 to
1845. It examines the experience of these migrants in order to discover who they were,
where they came from, to what extent their pre-migration experience was reflected in their
lives in their new homes and whether or not they possessed an awareness of themselves as a
community. Research has involved extensive use of convict transportation and court
records, local newspapers, colonial and home office records and folklore material.
Documentary evidence on the Irish diaspora for the first half of the nineteenth-century is
scarce and as a result historical literature tends to focus on the second half of the century.
As a consequence of the limited availability of historical evidence, the literature which does
exist for the earlier period has relied too heavily on conclusions reached about Famine
migrants and on negative images with less specific origins. This thesis uses records of
transportation which provide full and reliable data on age, birthplace, occupations, marital
and family status, literacy and religion, to provide a new and vivid profile of the Irish in
Britain. The conclusions drawn from this data challenge many previous assumptions and
are presented in Chapter One.
Chapters Two and Three consider the way in which the Irish saw themselves and were seen
by the English. The existing literature concentrates almost exclusively on English attitudes
towards the Irish, thus confirming the strength of the anti-Irish stereotype in denying the
Irish their prejudices. It is argued here that identities are mutually constituting and that both
parties played an important creative role in the self image of the other. Relations between
Irish immigrants and their English hosts could not but be affected by their long history of
opposition and mutual misrepresentation.
Chapters Four to Six focus on the ways in which Irish identity manifested itself in
Yorkshire and Lancashire, that is, in politics, in their secret societies and in religion.
Chapter Four demonstrates the commitment of large numbers of Irish immigrants to the
interests of their native home and the way in which they remained under the influence of
political leaders such as Daniel O'Connell. Chapter Five shows the way in which the
introduction of Ribbon Societies to Britain helped to maintain and reinforce ethnic identity.
Finally Chapter Six argues that the Irish, far from being indifferent to matters of religion,
had very particular ideas regarding the organisation of their Church and were adept at
asserting their opinions.