Conquering England

Roy Foster introduces a new exhibition on the Irish in London in the 19th and early 20th centuries, opening at the National Portrait Gallery on March 9th 2005.

Not all Irish emigrants to Victorian Britain were working class. Less glamorous than Fenian revolutionaries or decayed Ascendancy, the Irish middle class deserve a place in the remarkable story of how Ireland stamped its mark on British consciousness. Until quite recently, one used to hear that nineteenth-century Ireland didn’t ‘have a middle class’; but now historians are placing class, and class cultures much nearer the centre of Irish social history in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Part of this story should include the way that Irish people colonised London metropolitan life notably in journalism, the law, medicine, the arts and politics.

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