Eire in the Empire: Irish Settlement, Violence, and Identity Formation in New South Wales and Upper Canada, 1823-1868

Matthew Aaron Schownir, Purdue University


This dissertation examines Irish Catholic diasporic communities in the early- to mid-nineteenth century British settler colonies of Upper Canada and New South Wales. As one of the “founding peoples” of settler Canada and Australia, Irish Catholic immigrants formed a sizeable minority group burdened by historical stereotypes on account of their religion, class, and ethnicity. Yet historians agree that the Irish successfully integrated into mainstream settler society by the end of the nineteenth century, occupying top political and social positions while regarded as part of the white British colonial project. This study examines Irish settler integration through the lens of immigrant agency and the appropriation of violence to achieve footholds in primarily British and Protestant settler spaces. It examines various modes and moments of violence to examine the processes informing identity and groupness on the imperial periphery that ultimately brought the Irish into closer association with the British imperial state and settler society. By recasting violence in its many forms—from bar fights and boxing matches to political assassinations and colonial revolts—as vital moments of immigrant agency and cultural renegotiation, this dissertation sheds light on the processes that shaped the meanings of Irishness and whiteness in the nascent colonial spaces of the British Empire.




Atkinson, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Canadian history|European history|History|Modern history

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