A New History of the Irish in Australia (2018)

A New History of the Irish in Australia by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing, 2018. Pp. 436. A$34.99 paper.

Not a comprehensive survey, but the strength of the authors’ collaboration lies in the breadth of topics they cover (some new to Irish Australian scholarship), and the variety of methodologies they adopt in doing so. Authors argue the diaspora is a complex, multi-national, multi-generational network, and the Irish who moved through this space from the 1790s to the mid-twentieth century were a complex people. Under the three headings of ‘Race’, ‘Stereotypes’ and ‘Politics’, the authors tease out the contradictions inherent in the Irish diasporic experience in an Australian context. 

The New History makes a serious contribution to the field of Irish Australian studies, to Australian history, and to Irish diaspora studies more broadly. The book showcases a variety of methodologies, uncovers new sources, and generously highlights numerous opportunities for further research. The authors deliver new perspectives on questions relevant to Australian history, such as the encounter on the frontier, and crime and mental health in colonial Australia. They also remind historians that the pervasive nature of stereotypes should not be overlooked. As Rónán McDonald wrote in his epigraph for the New History, Malcolm and Hall provide a necessary corrective to the false unity of the term ‘Anglo-Celtic’. In their hands, the multifaceted nature of Irishness and the Irish experience in Australia is carefully traced, without overlooking the commonalities of experience with other groups in Australia’s past.

My full review published in History Australia 50:2 (2019), pp.278-9.

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