The Irish in Europe Project provides a forum for the presentation of the latest research on the Irish in Europe with regularly updated reports on new publications.
Research on Irish migration traditionally focussed on the migrants themselves. In more recent years, attention has also been drawn to the communities who sent and received these migrants. In this scholarly context, Irish migration has come to be seen less as an extraordinary phenomenon, necessitated by abnormal social, political and cultural conditions and more as normal demographic behaviour, as much a part of the human condition as birth, life and death. Thus historians of migration have recognised in Irish migration characteristics and qualities that are common to migration experiences in other countries and in other times. To an important degree, this recognition has permitted the Irish migration experience to be demystified and normalised. The ideological straitjacket that conceived early modern Irish migration as simply a British problem, understood as a reaction to state centralisation, religious uniformity and economic disempowerment is yielding to an appreciation of the migration phenomenon as an essential, complex function not only of Irish and British society but the Continent and the wider world to which they are linked
International comparisons have played a vital role in these developments. For Scottish and Irish migration studies in particular, comparison has been particularly pertinent. This is not only because of geographical proximity and shared historical experience but also because the specific migration experiences of Ireland and Scotland have operated in a complex symbiosis that the emergence of religious differences and the pursuit of state building altered but did not terminate. In this context, the Ulster Plantations are the unavoidable starting point for any comparative analysis of Scotland’s migration experience, not only because of their scale but also because of their impact on the subsequent relations between Ireland and Scotland as parts of the Stuart kingdoms.
Nor is this just a British question. The normalisation of the study of Scots migration to Ireland is part of the maturing of European migration studies generally.
The past thirty years or so have been a historiographical rollercoaster as international migration studies, along with other areas of historical research, have undergone conceptual changes, including the deconstruction of traditional, nationalist historiographies. It comes as no surprise that the newer conceptuality has not gone uncontested and this is as it should be, especially when well-directed criticism, often from an anti-revisionist, nationalist perspective, challenges the woolly, forced or vacuous comparisons that can result from the neglect of local, regional and national studies. The latter remain as central as ever to migration studies, especially now that information technology permits the collection, manipulation and interrogation of vast bodies of first-level data.
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