Congrave  Press


Poverty and Prejudice A Study of Irish Immigrants in York 1840-1875

Poverty and Prejuice book cover

Frances Finnegan

ISBN: 978-1-9044976-4-6
Hardcover. 203 pages
Published by Borthwick Institute for Archives,
University of York, 2018.
Available in bookshops shortly.
(First published by Cork University Press, 1982)

In common with other recent work on the post-Famine Irish in Britain and America, this book examines aspects of immigrant life which had previously been largely neglected by historians, who tended to accept the nineteenth-century view of the anti-social behaviour of the Celt. It sets out to assess the actual extent of an Irish community’s contribution to both crime and local Poor Law expenditure and to consider these findings against the background of hardship and hostility the immigrants encountered in their new lives. It examines too, their demographic and occupational characteristics over a 35 year period, and explores the limited extent of assimilation taking place in a community which was alien in speech, religion and culture, and almost completely replacing itself at least once in every decade.

Using in their entirety the census enumerators’ notebooks (for 1841, 1851, 1861 and 1871), together with all of York’s local (and invariably hostile) weekly newspapers; as well as the Poor Law Guardians’ Application and Report books for the whole period, this study captures the lives of a particular sub-section of the poor, who, apart from the census material, are on record largely as paupers or delinquents.

Also examined are the appalling slum conditions in which they were forced to exist, their abject poverty, and the prejudice they encountered from those in authority as well as from York's existing poor. This was in contrast to the role of the Quakers (particularly the Tukes) who visited Ireland distributing Friends’ Relief in the Famine years and were active in supporting the starving newcomers to the city.

The book contains case studies of individuals, 34 illustrations, 3 maps and numerous tables and graphs.

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