Religion, persecution and identity in Britain and Ireland, 1558–1794
The English-speaking diaspora of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries has often been assumed to have been a secular, economic phenomenon, driven by conditions at home and drawn by opportunities abroad. Yet, the subject thus defined was preceded by another very different one: the waves of Catholic emigration from Britain and Ireland driven by war and persecution, led by religious, educational and military opportunity abroad, and organising in exile to bring about a restoration and reconversion of the homeland. It was a movement effectively obscured by ‘victors’ history’ and the insistence of certain historians that Whiggism stood for religious toleration, not persecution. This chapter offers the first overview of this historical phenomenon, and uses it to propose a reconsideration of the concept of diaspora itself.
Migrations of people, ideas, beliefs and cultures have closely shaped relations between the nations of the British and Irish Isles. In part this was the result of Anglo-imperialism, which expanded from a heartland around London and the South of England, first, then through the ‘Celtic fringe’, creating hybrid peoples who were both Irish and British, before spreading across the globe. At times, Catholics of both islands were exiled from this narrative of nation-building. Political pressures, economic opportunities, a spirit of adventure and sometimes force, spurred the creation of multiple diasporas from the British and Irish Isles. This book brings together a range of leading scholars who explore the origins, varieties and extent of these diasporas. Wherever Britons and the Irish went, they created new identities as neo-Britons, neo-Angles, neo-Irish, neo-Scots: persons who were colonials, new nationals, and yet still linked to their old country and home nations. British and Irish emigrants also perpetuated elements of their distinctive national cultures in music, literature, saints’ days and broader, diffuse interactions with fellow nationals. These especially commissioned essays explore processes of diaspora-formation from the English Catholic exiles of the sixteenth century, through the ‘Wild Geese’, Jacobites, traders and servants of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, to the modern colonising diasporas associated with the modern age of mass migration.