Personal narratives of Irish and Scottish migration, 1921–65

'For spirit and adventure'

By Angela McCarthy

Personal narratives of Irish and Scottish migration, 1921–65

Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-7353-3
  • Pages: 272
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: December 2012
  • BIC Category: Ireland, Society & social sciences / Migration, immigration & emigration, Humanities / Social & cultural history, First World War, European history, c 1910 to c 1919, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, Humanities / First World War, History


Between 1921 and 1965, Irish and Scottish migrants continued to seek new homes abroad. Using the personal accounts of these migrants from letters, interviews, questionnaires and shipboard journals, together with more traditional documentary sources such as immigration files and maritime records, this book examines the experience of migration and settlement in North America and Australasia.

Through a close reading of personal testimonies the author highlights the assorted similarities and differences between the Irish and Scots. Subtle differences rather than yawning cultural gaps are apparent; similarities in attitude and expectation are more common than divergent or unique experiences. Tackling issues of why and how versions of the past are represented and what they mean, this fascinating study considers individual and collective memory and the use of personal testimonies as historical evidence.


'The book embraces an ambitious comparative aspect ... [and is] grounded impressively in a range of theoretical and interdisciplinary approaches to the study of the migration, demonstrating a keen awareness of recent debates about concepts of diaspora and transnationalism ... this book successfully addresses many of the key debates in migration studies about assimilation and acculturation from the important perspective of individual experience ... This is a significant contribution to the study of migration and settlement, which suggests that a methodological concentration on personal narratives in a comparative context could be applied fruitfully to other areas of migration history.'
Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, vol. 36, no. 4 (2008), pp. 689-691.

'[T]he book is an important contribution to our understanding of the comparative nature of the expectations and experiences of ethnic groups who settled in destinations across the Anglophone world. The methodological approach is also stimulating, contributing to and challenging the current historiography of migration through the vivid and evocative evidence from the oral testimonies . This is a book that fully merits inclusion in undergraduate studies of migration and one which should be consulted by postgraduates and academics working in this field.'
Journal of Scottish Historical Studies, vol. 29 no.1 (2009), pp. 83-85.

'[E]xemplifies the richness and perspicacity of the latest wave of migration scholarship ... The sheer scale of the evidential base is breathtaking ... The book is a strikingly original contribution to the international historiography of migration and a model application of the comparative method to historical writing.'
New Zealand Journal of History, vol. 43, no. 1 (2009), pp. 92-94.

'[T]he book presents an extremely valuable examination of migration from Ireland and Scotland during this period ... [and gives] special insight into the whole migration experience.'
Irish Studies Review, vol. 16, no. 4 (2008), pp. 514-515.

'[T]he book is a well-documented and well-written study of personal narratives ... [It] demonstrate[s] the value of personal testimonies in terms of offering unparalleled insights into the experiences of migration ... The book's breadth and instructive nature will also appeal to scholars looking for an introduction to the different types of personal narratives.'
Immigrants and Minorities, vol. 26, no. 3 (2008), pp. 322-325.


Introduction: Methods, approaches, sources
1. Historiography and context
2. 'I'll go and find some sunshine': Considering going
3. 'A tearful goodbye': Planning to move
4. 'Nothing but water': Getting there
5. 'The land of opportunity': Ellis Island and New York
6. 'It just isn't home': Entering the British World
7. 'A crony of my own type': Personal and group networks
8. 'Jigs and reels and hornpipes': Identity, culture, and belonging
9. 'The savage loves his native shore': Going home


Angela McCarthy is RCUK Academic Fellow/Lecturer in History (Diaspora) at the University of Hull

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