The Irish in Leeds, 1931-81 : aspects of emigration
Irish emigrants have been settling in Britain in significant numbers since the early nineteenth century. As a result of continued waves of emigration, the Irish constituted the largest ethnic minority in mid-twentieth century Britain. The history of the Irish in Leeds is a microcosm of this migration pattern. Leeds has had a significant Irish population from the 1820s, which dramatically increased throughout the 1840s but petered out as the nineteenth drew to a close. However, the ‘second wave’ of Irish emigration to Leeds, which took place between the 1930s and the 1970s, is the primary focus of this thesis. Research on the history of the Irish in Britain has tended to focus on the latter half of the nineteenth century. The Irish in twentieth century Britain have received comparatively little academic attention; instead the focus has been on Afro-Caribbean and Asian immigration at the expense of those of longer standing and greater numbers, but perhaps of less visibility. Although by 1971 the Irish-born constituted the largest immigrant group in Leeds [as in Britain], relatively little is know about the actual experiences of these emigrants. As a small step towards correcting this deficiency this thesis addresses various aspects of the emigrant experience, primarily using oral evidence from the life-narrative of thirty-three Irish emigrants who arrived in Leeds between 1931 and 1981. The mainthemes of the thesis are based on the common elements of the emigrant experience which were expressed in the life narratives: the actual emigration process, initial settlement, contact with home and the issue of permanent return to Ireland. As far as was possible their experiences are kept in the emigrant’s own words.
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