The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996 Page: 328
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
American dream of upward social mobility and improved prosperity in
the twentieth century.2
While the experience of the pioneer Irish colonists of San Patricio
and Refugio, Texas, was highly unusual and unrepresentative of the ma-
jority experience of the Irish in North America, those who left Ireland in
1834 to migrate to Texas did conform with the patterns of pre-famine
migration in the period 1815 to 1845. Important questions are raised
through the historiography of the Irish in Texas about the traditions of
writing on Irish migration, not merely in America but throughout the
Irish diaspora. Should we regard the emigrants as hapless victims of a
poor, oppressed Ireland? Were they forced into involuntary exile? Or
did they choose emigration as a way to escape limited opportunities at
home in search of a better life abroad? When they arrived in North
America, were they handicapped by the cultural baggage they took with
them? How does the example of the Texas pioneer settlers illuminate
Different models of migration history may be considered in reconcil-
ing the general from the particular. Here, Patrick O'Sullivan's emerg-
ing, multidisciplinary six-volume study of The Irish World Wide provides
an especially valuable guide to exploring general issues of methodology
and sets out the current state of migration studies in the form of essays
that are wide-ranging in subject and approach." O'Sullivan identifies
three Irish migration categories which describe the traditions in which
histories have been written, however consciously or unconsciously. Ap-
plying the ideas of the feminist historian Gerda Lerner, he describes op-
pression, compensation, and contribution history not as exclusive forms
of writing but as parts of a continuum. Singly, these categories of writing
obscure some aspects of the Irish migration experience. Together, they
form a more coherent, if not completely comprehensive, picture.4
Oppression history tends to dwell exclusively on the sufferings of Irish
people at particular times, and so may tend to distort a long historical
process by not only identifying extreme acts of cruelty and wrongdoing
as the norm but also by conspiring with the oppressor in notions of con-
quest and subordination. Stereotypes of victim and oppressor, hero and
villain, emerge in a moral pageant of black-and-white figures deter-
mined by the reaction of compensation history, which through studying
2 Lawrence J. McAffrey, Textures of Irsh America (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1992),
S Patrick O'Sullivan (ed), The Irish World Wide, Vol. I, Patterns of Migratzon (Leicester: Leicester
University Press, 1992), Vol. II, The Irzsh in the New Communztes (Leicester: Leicester University
Press, 1992), Vol. III, The Creatzve Migrant (Leicester: Leicester University Press, 1993), Vol. IV,
Irish Women and Irish Migratzon (Leicester. Leicester University Press, 1995).
4 O'Sullivan, The Irsh World Wide, I, xvii-xx.
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 99, July 1995 - April, 1996, periodical, 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101217/m1/390/: accessed July 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.