Labour History Review

Hub and Diaspora: Liverpool and Transnational Labour

Labour History Review (2010), 75, (1), 20–29.

Abstract

As the human and commercial entrepôt linking the old world and the new, nineteenth-century Liverpool is an important laboratory for historical investigation of transnational mobility, networks, and developments. The paper pays particular attention to the increasing number of Irish arrivals who chose to remain in this port of entry, stigmatized at the time (and since) as a kind of under-class, unable, unwilling, or unsuited to take advantage of opportunities elsewhere. The Liverpool-Irish are reassessed here in a number of ways: through transnational and comparative analysis with Irish and other 'moving Europeans' who continued onwards across the Atlantic; and by attention to the specific interweaving of ethnic, confessional, and class interests within the Liverpool-Irish community and the distinctive patterns of labour politics and trade union organization which emerged. The article concludes that while labour history must become transnational in focus, it must never lose the crucial sense of context and cultural specificity. Liverpool was at the hub of the Irish Diaspora, but in its labour history (as in so much else) it was a place apart.

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Author details

Belchem, John