Divergent paths

Family histories of Irish emigrants in Britain, 1820–1920

By John Herson

Divergent paths


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Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-9063-9
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £75.00
  • Published Date: April 2015
  • BIC Category: Ireland, Family & relationships: advice & issues, Humanities / British & Irish history, Family & Relationships, Society & social sciences / Migration, immigration & emigration, SOCIAL SCIENCE / Emigration & Immigration, HISTORY / Europe / Ireland, FAMILY & RELATIONSHIPS / General, European history, Migration, immigration & emigration, History


This book is unique in adopting a family history approach to Irish immigrants in nineteenth century Britain. It shows that the family was central to the migrants' lives and identities. The techniques of family and digital history are used for the first time to reveal the paths followed by a representative body of Irish immigrant families, using the town of Stafford in the West Midlands as a case study.

The book contains vital evidence about the lives of ordinary families. In the long term many intermarried with the local population, but others moved away and some simply died out. The book investigates what forces determined the paths they followed and why their ultimate fates were so varied.

A fascinating picture is revealed of family life and gender relations in nineteenth-century England which will appeal to scholars of Irish history, social history, genealogy and the history of the family.


'In this remarkable book, the author gives colour and life to this non-descript place, and voice to generations of the type of people that do not ordinarily feature in history writing. A micro-study of 22 out of a total of 206 Irish families who settled in Stafford in 1820-1920, what emerges from this collective family biography is unlike anything else in the canon of Irish migrant studies...The depth of research on show here is, at times, extraordinary.'
Ciaran O'Neill, Trinity College Dublin , Economic History Review, 69,2 (2016)


John Herson is former Head of History at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) and a former Fellow of Liverpool University in the Institute of Irish Studies. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at LJMU


1. Irish emigrants and family history: a new approach
2. The context: Irish emigration and Stafford
3. Stafford's Irish families: the overall picture
4. Pathfinders: labouring families before the Famine
5. Refugees from the Famine
6. Labouring families in the Famine's aftermath, 1852+
7. Lace curtain Irish? The families of craft, clerical & service workers
8. Old soldiers and their families
9. The Irish in the shoe trade
10. The forgotten Irish: entrepreneurs and professionals
11. Divergent paths: the conclusions to be drawn

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