Books

peaceable kingdom cover Peaceable Kingdom Lost: The Paxton Boys and the Destruction of William Penn's Peaceable Kingdom (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009). Hardcover, 294 pages; 34 half-tones, 6 maps.

William Penn established Pennsylvania in 1682 as a "holy experiment" in which Europeans and Indians could live together in harmony. Penn's Peaceable Kingdom – benevolent, Quaker, pacifist, but founded ultimately on the need to control Indians' land – gradually disintegrated over the course of the eighteenth century. Aggressive frontier settlers, most of them of Ulster extraction, encroached on Indian land as squatters. William Penn's sons cast off their father's Quaker heritage and embraced the harsh colonialist logic of fraud and eventually violence. The Peaceable Kingdom fell apart during the French and Indian War (1755-63) when Pennsylvania declared war for the first time in its history, against the Delaware Indians.

At the heart of the book is the massacre of the last twenty Conestoga Indians, who lived near Lancaster on land donated by William Penn. The perpetrators, known as the Paxton Boys after the frontier town where they lived (today's Harrisburg) made no distinction between Indians – "friendly" or "enemy," peaceful or Christian. After exterminating the Conestogas they invoked the principle of "right by conquest" to claim that the Indians' land was now rightfully theirs. They marched on Philadelphia in February 1764, threatening to sack the city unless their grievances were met. A delegation led by Benjamin Franklin persuaded them to write down these grievances and there followed a war of words rather than one of weapons.

The Paxton Boys were never arrested or prosecuted. As a result the frontier descended into anarchy, with disastrous results for Pennsylvania's Indians. At the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States confiscated the lands of Britain's Indian allies on the principle of "right by conquest." In 1763 the Paxton Boys were anomalous, in Pennsylvania at least; twenty years later their way of thinking was commonplace. Pennsylvania was the gateway to the west – and hence to the future.

   
Making Sense of the Molly Maguires Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998). Hardcover and paperback, 336 pages. History Book Club alternate selection.

Twenty Irishmen were hanged in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania in the late 1870s, convicted of a series of sixteen killings. They allegedly belonged to a secret society called the “Molly Maguires,” said to have been imported from the Irish countryside. The chief source of evidence against them was that of an undercover Pinkerton detective whom the defense lawyers accused of being an agent provocateur, supplemented by the confessions of informers who turned state’s evidence to save their necks. Yet, while their trials were stage-managed by railroad and coal company attorneys and bordered on a travesty of justice, there is little doubt that the Molly Maguires used violence, including assassination, as a weapon in labor disputes. In seeking to explain this tragic episode, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires moves beyond two existing poles of interpretation: contemporary depictions of inherently savage Irishmen reveling in violence for its own sake, and subsequent portrayals of the Mollys as innocent victims of economic, religious, or ethnic oppression. The Molly Maguires represented a rare transatlantic outgrowth in industrial America of a pattern of secret society violence endemic in the nineteenth-century Irish countryside.

   
The American Irish The American Irish: A History (Longman, 2000). Hardcover and paperback, 328 pages.

A general survey of the field from the seventeenth century to the present, The American Irish is ideal for use in courses. The opening chapter on the colonial era is followed by three chapters on the nineteenth century and two on the twentieth. Each chapter focuses on common themes, among them the process of migration and settlement, labor, race, and gender; prejudice, nativism, and racism; religion; politics; and nationalism. Each chapter also assesses an important historiographical debate, including race and “whiteness,” the origins of the Irish potato famine, the nature of women’s migration, and the significance of urban machine politics.

   
Ireland and the British Empire Ireland and the British Empire: The Oxford History of the British Empire Companion Series (Oxford University Press, 2004). Contributing editor. Hardcover, 296 pages. Revised paperback edition, 2006.

A collection of historical essays offering the first comprehensive history of Ireland’s entanglement with the British Empire from the early modern era to the present, Ireland and the British Empire launched the Companion Series to Wm. Roger Louis’s acclaimed five-volume edited work, The Oxford History of the British Empire. Each of the contributors to Ireland and the British Empire – Nicholas Canny, Jane Ohlmeyer, Thomas Bartlett, Alvin Jackson, Kevin Kenny, Vera Kreilkamp, Deirdre McMahon, Stephen Howe, and Joe Cleary – adopts a dual focus, examining Ireland’s constitutional position within the Empire (as kingdom, colony, or part of the Union) and Irish people’s participation in imperial affairs (as migrants, soldiers, administrators, and missionaries).

   
The Irish: Towards the USA The Irish: Towards the USA (Turin: Umberto Allemandi, 2006). Hardcover, 103 pages, with 90 illustrations. Published simultaneously in Italian (Giuliana Olivero, trans.) as Gli irlandesi che hanno fatto l’America.

Countries such as Italy, Germany, and Ireland, which sent millions of their people to America over the last two centuries, are now experiencing immigration on a massive scale. As a nation of immigrants, the United States has always been a multi-ethnic and multi-racial society; its history holds many lessons for those interested in the impact of mass immigration on European societies today. Gli irlandesi che hanno fatto l'America is the first book in a series about immigration to the United States designed to illuminate aspects of the European present by studying the American past.

   
New Directions in Irish American History New Directions in Irish-American History (University of Wisconsin Press, 2003). Contributing editor. Hardcover and paperback, 334 pages.

A collection of historical essays, New Directions in Irish-American History presents some of the best new scholarship in the field under four headings: “Patterns of Migration,” “Politics and Race,” “The World of Work,” and “Representation, Memory, and Return.” Contributors include Maurice Bric, Kerby Miller, Matthew O’Brien, Tyler Anbinder, William Jenkins, Ruth-Ann Harris, Mary E. Daly, Thomas J. Archdeacon, and Mary P. Corcoran.