The Literature of the Irish in Britain

The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009)
The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (2009)

This AHRC-funded study, The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725-2001 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009), is the first critical survey of the autobiographies of writers of Irish birth or background who lived and worked in Britain since the early 1700s. Drawing on the work of over sixty writers, the book illustrates the diverse modes in which the ‘story’ of Irish migration to Britain has been narrated and shows how these testimonies deepen our understanding of what it means to be an immigrant at different times and places. Among the authors discussed are Laetitia Pilkington, W.B. Yeats, Patrick MacGill, Elizabeth Bowen, Sean O’Casey, Louis MacNeice, Alice Foley, Dónall Mac Amhlaigh, William Trevor and John Walsh. The Literature of the Irish in Britain was a Book of the Year in the Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Independent, and has been described by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, as ‘a really major work’.

What the Reviewers Said:

The Literature of the Irish in Britain is an invaluable work of reclamation. Liam Harte brings to this work a sympathy, an acute intelligence and considerable knowledge. It is a work of ingenious discovery and rediscovery.’

Colm Tóibín, Irene and Sidney B. Silverman Professor of the Humanities, Columbia University, New York.

This is a rare book, a real act of discovery that overturns inherited perceptions and opens up a rich terrain of Irish experience.’

Fintan O’Toole, Irish Times, 25 April 2009.

Liam Harte’s The Literature of the Irish in Britain […] is a major contribution to understanding the Irish community in Britain.’

Conor Carville, Times Higher Education, 11 June 2009.

Liam Harte has collated a brilliant, valuable piece of work. […] If there is to be a better collection in years to come, this will still remain the template.’

Joe Horgan, Books Ireland, Summer 2009.

Harte’s achievement in putting together this study is all the more impressive given that he has made this subject of Irish migrant autobiography more or less his own. Historians and other scholars have consulted many of the published works and some of the unpublished accounts that he includes, but without the critical dimension and sharp insights that he brings to the study of this literature. […] In doing so, he has opened up new ways of looking at the Irish diaspora.’

Enda Delaney, Dublin Review of Books, Summer 2009.

A wide range of very different kinds of writing was superbly analysed by Liam Harte in his The Literature of the Irish in Britain, […] to create a marvellous palimpsest of immigrant experience.’

Roy Foster, “Books of the Year,” Times Literary Supplement, 27 November 2009.

I was profoundly touched by The Literature of the Irish in Britain by Liam Harte, a rich pot-pourri of the Irish diaspora experience. A gem.’

Mary Kenny, “Books of the Year,” Irish Independent, 19 December 2009.

The scope of this book is ambitious in every sense, providing a rare engagement with autobiographical theory within an Irish context. Throughout the text, the diligence of Harte’s research is in evidence.’

Claire Lynch, Irish Studies Review, 17:4, 2009.

Liam Harte’s work has for many years been centrally important in addressing the Irish migrant experience, and his handsomely-presented new book is another tremendously valuable contribution to that. […] It is a major work of scholarship and goes a long way to restoring complexity to perceptions of the Irish in Britain.’

Aidan Arrowsmith, Literature and History, 19:2, 2010.

This remarkable book combines archival research, textual analysis, biography, a theoretical reflection on the nature of autobiography, while pulling to the surface of textual visibility the hidden history of Irish immigrants in Britain. The book is a tour de force in the way the author has managed to resuscitate dozens of texts.’

Sylvie Mikowski, Cercles: Revue Pluridisciplinaire du Monde Anglophone, 22, 2012.

Listen to address by Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland, to audience at Glucksman Ireland House, New York University, 3 May 2012.

Migration, Creativity and Cultural Identity