FACT: “Catholics were first allowed to enlist in the British army in large numbers in the 1790s, and for more than a century thereafter tens and even hundreds of thousands of Irishmen continued to follow the increasingly well-worn path into the armed forces of the Crown. Many joined Irish regiments such as the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, and the King’s Liverpool Regiment (popularly known as the Liverpool Irish). In some cases, their uniform jackets were green, and the insignias on their jackets included harps, shamrocks, or other distinctively Irish symbols.”

Irish Nationalists and the Making of the Irish Race
by Bruce Nelson

This is a book about Irish nationalism and how Irish nationalists developed their own conception of the Irish race. Bruce Nelson begins with an exploration of the discourse of race—from the nineteenth—century belief that “race is everything” to the more recent argument that there are no races. He focuses on how English observers constructed the “native” and Catholic Irish as uncivilized and savage, and on the racialization of the Irish in the nineteenth century, especially in Britain and the United States, where Irish immigrants were often portrayed in terms that had been applied mainly to enslaved Africans and their descendants.

Most of the book focuses on how the Irish created their own identity—in the context of slavery and abolition, empire, and revolution. Since the Irish were a dispersed people, this process unfolded not only in Ireland, but in the United States, Britain, Australia, South Africa, and other countries. Many nationalists were determined to repudiate anything that could interfere with the goal of building a united movement aimed at achieving full independence for Ireland. But others, including men and women who are at the heart of this study, believed that the Irish struggle must create a more inclusive sense of Irish nationhood and stand for freedom everywhere. Nelson pays close attention to this argument within Irish nationalism, and to the ways it resonated with nationalists worldwide, from India to the Caribbean.

“This is a brilliant history of British imperial white racism and Irish resistance to it—and cooperation with it—in Ireland and the United States. From Frederick Douglass and Daniel O’Connell in the nineteenth century to Marcus Garvey and Liam Mellows in the twentieth, we are given here a pathbreaking account of a still unfinished struggle.”—Seamus Deane, Keough Emeritus Professor of Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame

We invite you to read Chapter 1 here: