This conference has now taken place.
The Irish became an intrinsic part of the London population through the course of the eighteenth century. Whether Catholic and Protestant, professional or plebeian, London provided opportunities for waves of Irish migrants. Irish migrants can of course be found throughout Britain (and Europe) at this time but London offered a burgeoning world capital that embraced all tiers of Irish society. The Irish, from both sides of the religious divide, could be found almost anywhere in London: in its kitchens, drawing rooms, legal chambers, banking houses, theatres, newspaper offices, and courts. Nevertheless robust systematic historical data on these migrants is scarce – such accounts that exist of the Irish diaspora in pre-1815 London (Denvir, Akenson, and Jackson) are useful but fragmentary and Irish historiography on the diaspora has generally tended to concentrate on the famine years.
There is work on Irish Catholics in Europe but only recently have more focused accounts of Irish networks operating in London in the eighteenth century begun to emerge. Yet despite the sparse accounts of their activities, there was certainly a strong Irish – Catholic as well as Protestant – presence in London throughout this period. Archbishop King warned that Irish visitors in London ‘converse only in a very sneaking private way with one another’ and this observation suggests a metropolitan space within which the Irish diaspora could form themselves into tight social and professional networks. The study of such networks would provide a fresh perspective on London in the long eighteenth century. How did such networks form? How did they evolve? To what degree were they inclusive/ exclusive? How did they represent ‘Irishness’ and/or Ireland to London? And how were they received?
This interdisciplinary conference is being organized by David O’Shaughnessy and will be hosted by the Department of English & Comparative Literature, University of Warwick. Plenary lectures will be given by Dr Toby Barnard (History, University of Oxford); Professor Claire Connolly (Literature, University of Cardiff; and Professor Mary Hickman (Sociology, London Metropolitan University).
The Conference has now taken place. The Conference Programme may be seen here.