From Publishers Weekly
Coogan, biographer of Michael Collins and Eamon DeValera, again tackles a boisterous, unruly Irish subject the diaspora. Irish emigration first began, Coogan tells us, in the 12th century, when the Normans invaded Ireland. Cromwell's terrorist campaign in the 17th century drove many Irish to France and Spain, while Cromwell deported many more to the West Indies and Virginia. Emigration took a more sinister turn with the advent of the famine in the 1840s. Coogan estimates that "a million died and probably as many as two-and-a-half million people left Ireland in the decade 1845-1855." He also estimates that another five million emigrated between the end of the famine and 1961. Where did they all go? Everywhere: Europe, U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Africa, the Caribbean, Latin America and Asia. Coogan breaks down by chapter the geographical travels, and includes some very colorful tales. For example, Mexico still embraces the memory of the wild San Patricios (St. Patrick) Brigade soldiers who deserted the American army during the Mexican War to fight on the side of their fellow Catholics. The first Irish came to Canada looking for cod fish, but many Canadians still remember the invasion of the quixotic Fenians, whose aim was to "liberate" Canada from British rule after the American Civil War. Chile still celebrates its Liberator, one Bernardo O'Higgins, and Australia remembers its Irish Robin Hood, Ned Kelly. The U.S. chapter is filled with stories of Tammany and the Kennedys, and there is an extremely interesting section on Bill Clinton and how he brokered the Good Friday Agreement. Rich in characterization and detail not to mention the Coogan wit this is an invaluable reference volume that belongs on the bookshelf of every Celtophile.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Irish journalist Coogan, who has written several books on Irish history and culture (e.g., The Man Who Made Ireland: The Life and Death of Michael Collins), here details the story of the Irish Diaspora, or emigration, which began with the Irish Potato Famine and the subsequent emigrations of the 1840s. Coogan writes easily, giving an often fascinating survey of the many places the Irish emigrated to, not only the United States but destinations like Argentina that will be less familiar to Americans. He relates the story of Irish emigration to these places, sketches the lives of various Irish figures there, and surveys today's Irish Diaspora descendants. Other titles like Thomas Keneally's The Great Shame (LJ 8/99) cover the Irish Diaspora but to a lesser geographic extent. Coogan does tend to overromanticize, at one point profiling an Irish harpist and singer who happens also to physically striking and a brilliant Gaelic football player. More significant, though, is his failure to address the question why these far-flung emigrants cling so to their Irish Catholic heritage. Nevertheless, this broad-ranging narrative history should be a popular title in many public and academic libraries. Charlie Cowling, SUNY at Brockport Lib.
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Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.