The Boston Irish: A Political History

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More About This Textbook


Settling in a city founded by the Puritans, the Boston Irish evolved into one of America's most distinctive ethnic communities and eventually came to dominate local politics. This book offers a history of Boston's Irish community.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The first Irish to arrive in Boston, in the early 18th century, were Protestants from Ulster and were thought of by the local gentry as ``members of a barbaric, inferior, and unmanageable race.'' By the time of the potato famine of the 1840s, these Protestant Irish had assimilated into the population and thought much the same about the new Irish, overwhelmingly Catholic, who emigrated to avoid starvation. In 1847 alone, Boston was inundated with 37,000 immigrants and the locals were appalled by the newcomers' unsanitary practices, indolence and propensity for drink. Like California's recent Proposition 187, the prejudice shibboleth of that time read, ``No Irish Need Apply,'' and in 1854, the Know-Nothing Party of Massachusetts promised to eliminate ``Rome, Rum, and Robbery.'' But with the urging of Boston Bishop Fitzpatrick, Irish Catholics learned to fight bigotry with the ballot. We are introduced to the featured players: Hugh O'Brien, the first Irish-born mayor of Boston; John F. Fitzgerald and Patrick J. Kennedy, ward bosses and the grandfathers of JFK; James Michael Curley, mayor, congressman, governor and prominent rogue; and John F. Kennedy, who completed the cycle of Irish political hegemony when he defeated Brahmin Henry Cabot Lodge for senator in 1952. Viewing the Irish from the coffin ships of the famine years to the lace-curtain attitudes of today, O'Connor (South Boston, My Home Town) has written a scholarly yet colorful account of a breed he convinces us is vanishing. Photos not seen by PW. (May)
Library Journal
O'Connor (history, Boston Coll.) adds to his series on the history of Boston with this account of the city's Irish political machine. He lovingly documents its growth from the time of scalawag James Michael Curley to that of more modern leaders like Raymond Flynn. His description of the Boston Brahmins, Protestant gentry in control of the banks and major businesses and locked in generational struggles with the Catholic Irish, makes for classic American drama. O'Connor is more tentative with Boston's infamous busing crises, and he finishes appropriately with a question mark on the future of the Irish in Boston politics. The only criticism is one of omission. O'Connor ignores Billy Bulger, the long-standing senate president, as though only mayors count. Alongside the works of the late Tip O'Neill, this will provide a thorough history of Boston politics. The promised index will be indispensable. Strongly recommended for academic collections and especially for Bay State public libraries.-Robert C. Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceutical Co. Information Svcs., N. Billerica, Mass.
An examination of the ways in which Puritan Boston shaped a distinctive ethnic community that, in turn, influenced the traditions and institutions of the city. Emphasis is placed on the bitter conflict between Yankees and Irish Catholic immigrants from which, according to the author, Irish political dominance developed. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316626613
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 8/24/2004
  • Edition description: Reissue
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 501,321
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.85 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2002

    The Boston Irish tells the story best

    The Boston Irish by Thomas H. O'Connor, a renowned Boston scholar, is a quick 300 plus page account of the struggle of the Irish within Boston from the time they first set their Catholic feet in the already-well-established Protestant colony to the 'New Boston' of modern times that faced the racial and economic crunches of current urban centers. O'Connor masterfully weaves the tale of the Irish as they ride the coattails of beloved and sometimes underhanded politicians and clergymen to the power and central authority of the City on the Hill. Taking into account the local and national issues of the changing times, O'Connor is able to accurately and eloquently lead the reader from point A to point B with ease.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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