April 22, 2018
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v2.1 Reference

Irish Nationalists in Boston

Catholicism and Conflict, 1900–1928

During the first quarter of the twentieth century, the intersection of support for Irish freedom and the principles of Catholic social justice transformed Irish ethnicity in Boston. Prior to World War I, Boston's middle-class Irish nationalist leaders sought a rapprochement with local Yankees. However, the combined impact of the Easter 1916 Rising and the postwar campaign to free Ireland from British rule drove a wedge between leaders of the city's two main groups. Irish-American nationalists, emboldened by the visits of Irish leader Eamon de Valera, rejected both Yankees' support of a postwar Anglo-American alliance and the latter groups' portrayal of Irish nationalism as a form of Bolshevism. Instead, ably assisted by Catholic Church leaders such as Cardinal William O'Connell, Boston's Irish nationalists portrayed an independent Ireland as the greatest bulwark against the spread of socialism. As the movement's popularity spread locally, it attracted the support not only of Irish immigrants, but also that of native-born Americans of Irish descent, including businessman, left-leaning progressives, and veterans of the women's suffrage movement.

For a brief period after World War I, Irish-American nationalism in Boston became a vehicle for the promotion of wider democratic reform. Though the movement was unable to survive the disagreements surrounding the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921, it had been a source of ethnic unity that enabled Boston's Irish community to negotiate the challenges of the postwar years including the anti-socialist Red Scare and the divisions caused by the Boston Police Strike in the fall of 1919. Furthermore, Boston's Irish nationalists drew heavily on Catholic Church teachings such that Irish ethnicity came to be more clearly identified with the advocacy of both cultural pluralism and the rights of immigrant and working families in Boston and America.

About the Author

Damien Murray is associate professor of history at Elms College


"Boston, that most Irish of American cities, has long needed a book on the powerful, if fractious, Irish nationalist movement that rocked it in the first quarter of the twentieth century. Damien Murray has given us that book, while introducing us to a fascinating group of Bostonians, including politicians, Catholic Church leaders, labor activists, and revolutionary Irish nationalists. Cogently written and astute in analyzing the complex intersection of anti-socialism and ethno-religious identity, this is a book that will be welcomed by historians of the Irish experience in America. –"—David Brundage, author of Irish Nationalists in America: The Politics of Exile, 1798-1998

"Drawing on a wide array of archival and printed sources, Damien Murray's Irish Nationalists in Boston is an impressive study on the impact of Irish nationalism in shaping Boston's Irish community in the early decades of the twentieth century. In the early 1900s, local Irish American men and women resisted Irish nationalist appeals to organize in favor of Irish freedom owing to their fear of antagonizing Boston's Yankee Brahmin elite. As Murray skillfully demonstrates, this resistance was eventually overcome after World War I by a mass mobilization of Boston Irish Americans by the Catholic Church and Irish nationalist leaders. The Catholic Church's leadership was crucial in shaping a Boston Irish ethnicity that supported workers' rights while rejecting the more radical appeals made by socialists and anarchists in this era. Murray's work also highlights the important activism by Irish-American women in pursuit of Ireland's final push for independence and their leadership in organizations like the American Association for the Recognition of the Irish Republic (AARIR)."—Ely M. Janis, author of A Greater Ireland: The Land League and Transatlantic Nationalism in Gilded Age America

"The focus on Boston and on a complex era in the history of Boston's Irish community constitutes pioneering research, and stands to make an important contribution to the field of Irish-American history."—Mary Kelly, author of Ireland's Great Famine in Irish-American History: Enshrining a Fateful Memory

"Damien Murray's Irish Nationalists in Boston: Catholicism and Conflict, 1900-1928 is the best historical study of Irish-American society and nationalism in a major U.S. city in the early twentieth century. Deeply researched and carefully argued, Murray's work shows how international and national developments, both secular and religious, intersected with the social and political divisions among Boston's Irish to generate diverse but powerful responses to the Irish revolution of 1916-1921."—Kerby Miller, Curators Professor Emeritus of History, University of Missouri

"The book is exceptionally well researched in a wide variety of sources, including an extraordinary number of private manuscript collections in both the United States and Ireland it is the insights he has taken from this research that makes the book such an exciting contribution to the study of Irish and Irish American nationalism as well as the broader history of the Irish in America."—Catholic Historical Review

"Irish Nationalists in Boston is among the most important works published on America's urban Irish in nearly twenty years. It reinforces long-standing arguments that Boston was not representative of the Irish experience in the United States. The methods and arguments that underscore this book, however, should serve as a model for future studies of other large cities in the early twentieth century. For scholars of Irish America and prospective graduate students, this is a must-read."—New Hibernia Review

"This impeccably researched case study will be of great significance to scholars, students, and popular audiences alike interested in the history of Boston, Irish nationalism, and American Catholicism. While his conclusions apply to Boston specifically, the book also contributes to the larger Irish American story."—Journal of American Ethnic History

"Murray's book is thoroughly researched and well written. The issue is exceedingly complicated and intertwined with a vast variety of incidents and events, but Murray handles all the details with care and the result is an excellent book suitable for any research or university library."—Catholic Library World

9780813230016 : irish-nationalists-in-boston-murray
296 Pages
$75.00 USD

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