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The Irish Americans: A History Paperback – February 2, 2010

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Frequently Bought Together

The Irish Americans: A History + Emigrants and Exiles: Ireland and the Irish Exodus to North America (Oxford Paperbacks) + Black Potatoes: The Story of the Great Irish Famine, 1845-1850
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Press; 1 edition (February 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1608190102
  • ISBN-13: 978-1608190102
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (64 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #645,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Four dominant themes in Irish-American history emerge from this new study by Dolan (The American Catholic Experience: A History from Colonial Times to the Present), professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame. These four are politics, religion, labor and nationalism. Beginning in 1729, when a decline in the linen trade and a poor harvest sparked a rush to America, Dolan traces the exodus to the beckoning colonies, swelling to 400,000 Irish in the U.S. by 1784. Millions more arrived after the 1840s potato famine, etched here in a vivid portrait of hunger and death. Over the next century, the American Catholic Church grew in prestige, as did Irish-American political power, confirmed by Al Smith's 1928 presidential campaign and capped in 1960 by the razor-thin victory of JFK. Closing chapters cover the post-WWII changes in urban Irish neighborhoods, Hollywood's celebration of Catholic culture and the Irish who rode the economic escalator up to middle-class respectability. Dolan doesn't whitewash history: he notes the rogues' gallery of Irish politicians and continuing pockets of Irish-American poverty. His writing is colorful and comprehensive with impeccable scholarship evident throughout. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Drawing on his own extensive research as well as recent work by numerous colleagues, Dolan offers an important contribution to American ethnic history. Tackling a large and complex story, he manages to retain readability amid solid scholarship. He clearly establishes the significance of the Church in the history of Irish Americans. In addition to its role, the author explores two other central themes: the enormous influence extreme poverty had on the lives of these people, and the gradual, often rocky, road to full assimilation and social acceptance. Dolan begins his story in Ireland, detailing how conditions went beyond harsh to intolerable. Driven out of their homeland by starvation; an antiquated system of land ownership; and cruel, misguided British politics, thousands of Irish immigrated to the United States in the latter half of the 19th century. For most, their lot improved, but only slightly. The next generation, however, fared better, and, by the mid-20th century, was not so much poor Irish as middle-class American. By the end of the century, it even became chic to be Irish. Many teens will find this book accessible and at times engrossing, and it will be valuable to those engaged in ethnic studies.–Robert Saunderson, Berkeley Public Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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See all 64 customer reviews
This book was on my mom's bookshelf and I decided to take it home with me and read.
Allison White
I urge the reader to keep notes of the things you will want to look up again, because you will want to come back to this one over and over.
James Gallen
This is a fine book for anyone that descended from the Irish immigrants that flooded America's cities in 19th century America.
James W. Durney

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

74 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Dennis Phillips on October 27, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Despite my Welsh surname the roots of my family tree run mostly to Ireland and for that reason I obviously found this book to be a fascinating read. As I read through this book though it became clear to me that any student of American history would find this to be a very interesting book because it is almost impossible to study American history without having to deal with the Irish. From the canals, railroads and tunnels built by Irish workers to Irish-Americans like John Kennedy and Ronald Reagan who reached the very pinnacle of American life, the Irish have been a key element if the success of America from its very beginning and this book covers its subject extraordinarily well.

One of the things that appealed most to me about this book was the author's coverage of the Irish who arrived in America before the potato famine. Many of my Irish Catholic ancestors arrived in America before the Revolution and almost all of them were here before the famine but those early immigrants are often ignored or it is assumed that they were all Protestant and for the most part Scotch-Irish. The further back into history that one looks the harder it is to come up with sources but this author has not let that deter him from including people like my ancestors in this book.

Given the vast nature of this subject I'm sure that it must have been tempting for Mr. Dolan to try to squeeze as many facts as possible into this book by hitting the reader with a rapid fire kind of approach that would have accomplished little except cause confusion but he has resisted that temptation and has written a thoroughly enjoyable and informative book.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Snap, Crackle and Pop on October 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This book succeeds well on a number of levels, and certainly succeeds for what it seems the author wanted it to be. Most importantly, it's a solid, accurate, and complete view of the subjects it covers, without being excessively detailed. (If this kind of book isn't accurate and complete, not much else matters!) If Irish Americans are a subject you're interested in, this book is a good choice.

Some, like me, might first approach such a book with a bit of dread. As much as the topic of the Irish in America is an interesting and varied one, for that very reason it can seem a well-worn path: the Great Hunger, No Irish Need Apply, Tammany Hall, John F. Kennedy. Luckily Dolan bookends the story that we are more familiar with by covering the Irish prior to the largest immigration (rightly termed "A Forgotten Era"); as well as some discussion of recent decades. (Though the question of what it means to be "Irish" in America today - another generation or two removed from Ireland, in a media-saturated environment, and in a more diverse country - isn't addressed in depth, and perhaps could be a book in itself.) And in between, you'll find you didn't know the story nearly as well as you thought you did! And gain an understanding of not just what happened, but why.

In looking for a comprehensive history of the Irish in America, though, I'd hoped it would be a bit broader. As the author acknowledges up front, the book does not cover the role of Irish Americans in literature, music, sports, etc. The focus is on politics, religion, labor and nationalism. (If that covers what you're looking for, though, this might be a five star book.
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23 of 26 people found the following review helpful By To Be Simple VINE VOICE on September 30, 2008
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
"The Irish Americans: A History" traces the history of the Irish in America from 1700 up through the current century. My previous knowledge of the Irish in America was gained through reading chapters in books specific to such subjects as immigration, politics, history, and religion. This book is the first title I have read in which the Irish Americans are looked at exclusively.

The author, Jay P. Dolan, divides the book into four sections: A Forgotten Era (1700 - 1840), The Famine Generation and Beyond (1840 - 1920), Becoming American (1920 - 1960), and Irish and American (1960 - 2000). Each section contains a wealth of information about the Irish experience. It should be noted that the author pays particular attention to the involvement of Irish Americans in politics, but also gives attention to religion, discrimination, education, family life, labor, and economy.

Something that needs to be mentioned is that this book is focused mainly on the Irish American experience in the cities. I would argue that this is a reasonably big weakness in a book with the objective of presenting a historical overview of Irish Americans. Irish Americans have a rich history in rural America that is largely absent in "The Irish Americans: A History."

The beautiful thing about "The Irish Americans" is that it is easily accessible and useful to the casual reader interested in the history of the Irish in America, while at the same time it contains solid scholarship and expertise to the point that it is a valuable tool for folks doing research. Dolan clearly has a strong grasp of the subject matter. Readers of this book will learn not only about the specific history of Irish Americans, but also learn a great deal about the general history of America. "The Irish Americans: A History" is a superb book for what it covers. Just be aware that the focus is on Irish Americans in urban areas, not rural ones.
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