This is a book about Irish nationalism and how Irish nationalists developed their own conception of the Irish race. Bruce Nelson begins with an exploration of the discourse of race--from the nineteenth--century belief that "race is everything" to the more recent argument that there are no races. He focuses on how English observers constructed the "native" and Catholic Irish as uncivilized and savage, and on the racialization of the Irish in the nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States, where Irish immigrants were often portrayed in terms that had been applied mainly to enslaved Africans and their descendants.
Most of the book focuses on how the Irish created their own identity--in the context of slavery and abolition, empire, and revolution. Since the Irish were a dispersed people, this process unfolded not only in Ireland, but in the United States, Britain, Australia, South Africa, and other countries. Many nationalists were determined to repudiate anything that could interfere with the goal of building a united movement aimed at achieving full independence for Ireland. But others, including men and women who are at the heart of this study, believed that the Irish struggle must create a more inclusive sense of Irish nationhood and stand for freedom everywhere. Nelson pays close attention to this argument within Irish nationalism, and to the ways it resonated with nationalists worldwide, from India to the Caribbean.
Bruce Nelson is professor emeritus of history at Dartmouth College. He is the author of Divided We Stand: American Workers and the Struggle for Black Equality (Princeton) and Workers on the Waterfront: Seamen, Longshoremen, and Unionism in the 1930s.
"This is . . . a most impressive study, not only for its breathtaking scope and Nelson's command of such vast and varied scholarship but for pointing to many unexplored directions for future comparative and transnational studies. This book is a welcome addition to the literature on Irish nationalism and on the construction of group identity."--Patrick Furlong, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics
"Nelson's book is a timely chronology of the quest by both foreigners and the Irish themselves to define and redefine race and identity."--Lar Joye, History Ireland
"Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race is . . . a wide-ranging work rooted in large volumes of both primary and secondary sources. It succeeds in broadening our understanding of Irish identity by digging up new and interesting intellectual connections between Irish nationalists and the outside world in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries."--Cian McMahon, New Hibernia Review
"The whole book . . . rests on a solid base of original research and analysis. Even when we may be familiar in outline with some of the incidents [Nelson] recounts . . . this book enriches our understanding."--Patrick Maume, Irish Historical Studies
"This is an important book that will chart a way forward to a fuller and more complex understanding of the role of race in Irish nationalist ideology."--Michael de Nie, American Historical Review
"For anyone interested in the development of an Irish national identity in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and its connection to the popular racial ideologies of the same period, this book is an essential starting point."--David T. Gleeson, Journal of British Studies
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Bruce Nelson: