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Sean Connolly – ‘On Every Tide: The Making and Remaking of the Irish World’ review

Connolly examines and presents the complexities of Irish identity, in his latest book.

Sean Connolly - On Every Tide
Credit: Little, Brown

Sean Connolly, Professor of Irish history (emeritus) and visiting research fellow at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast examines and presents the complexities of Irish identity, in his latest book, ‘On Every Tide: The Making and Remaking of the Irish World’, published with Little, Brown. 

The sixteen chapters are the result of decades of research and teaching of Irish society and political history and ‘On Every Tide’ is the perfect study of both the pull and the push factors of Irish immigration, to, primarily, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.  In addition to the chapters, full research notes and further reading is provided. But this is not just an academic text, perfect for students of global history with an Irish focus, this is a deeply insightful read into the perception of events of the late nineteenth and twentieth century, for any curious reader. 

Also, Connolly, the previous author of five books, writes in such an accessible way, offering a glimpse of stories that I want to know more about, I could just imagine writers of historical fiction delving into subsequent research paths. As I read of the experiences of the immigrants making the sailing, particularly to the USA and Canada, the hidden stories amongst the detailed content reminded me of so many films I’ve seen: ‘Gangs of New York’, ‘In America’ and ‘Angela’s Ashes’. Even ‘Titanic’, which stopped in County Cork ahead of the journey to New York. In the middle of the 1800s the treacherous journey would take up to twelve weeks to reach the United States, yet by the early 1900s a summer passage could take just five days. 

The contained photographs of Irish emigration, to the US and Australia, complete with source references and analysis, lead yet to more questions about wider society either as a country receiving immigrants, or the immigrant journey. Once the journey had been made to land, what welcome lay ahead for the exhausted traveller, and how did this change over one hundred years? Connolly’s research uncovered tragedies, such as the 1847 springtime arrivals of passengers to Grosse Ile, 30 miles downriver from Quebec, where 13,000 people, mainly Irish, escaping the Famine,  waited on 40 ships to be medically assessed, before a quarter succumbing, across several locations and months, to disease.

‘On Every Tide’ provides a comprehensive and analytical dive into one of the most globally discussed topics, that of emigration and immigration. Aspects of race, particularly in the United States, offer frank moments of discussion, ideal for lecture halls and public halls. ‘On Every Tide’ is an essential read for any student and reader of history.

Publisher: Little, Brown Release date: 25th August 2022 Buy ‘On Every Tide: The Making and Remaking of the Irish World’

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