Donald M. MacRaild
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An imperial, utopian and ‘visible’ diaspora
The English since 1800
in British and Irish diasporas
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The English were the largest group of emigrants in the British World. Yet, unlike the Scots or Irish, they are not ascribed attributes of ethnicity; they are not considered to be a diaspora. The oversight is shaped by a belief that the English assimilated rapidly into host societies that their forebears had, in any case, formed. The dominant Anglo-cultures of Britain’s former colonies in the Americas, Africa and Australasia means that the English are generally viewed as makers of empires not diasporas and as the national group against which other ethnic groups were defined. There is some merit in this view, but it underplays the equivalence of emigrants from all parts of Europe as they settled into alien, sometimes hostile environments, and certainly underplays similarities between Scots, Irish and English in respect of New World settlement. This chapter charts the major English emigration and settlement since 1800, and explores the cultural results through the prism of an awakening national consciousness shaped abroad rather than at home. It also explores some emigrants’ search for a folk-utopian future that was in keeping with the aspirations of the earliest settlers in the New World and was at odds with ideas of easy assimilation. The chapter proposes a rather different perspective from the usual one.

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British and Irish diasporas

Societies, cultures and ideologies


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