The Irish in Nineteenth Century Coventry

  • Thomas Prendergast

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


This study sets out to investigate the impact and implication of a discreet quantum of Irish, responding to nineteenth century urban life, in a small sized city, which had not been inundated by a disproportionate influx of Irish-born from the later 1840s. It seeks to understand if the response in such circumstances might vary from the historical migrant narrative developed around large post-Famine volumes in substantial municipalities. It is centred on Coventry which it is suggested represented the ‘ordinary’ small city and the quintessential ‘county’ type town. Its compact physical size and attainable censual continuity of coverage for a determinate area over many decades provides ideal investigative conditions. There is scrutiny of all eight censuses that enumerated the Irish; which permits the nature of generational transition to be revealed. It furnishes data for both Irish-born and for all those it deems to have an Irish association within a household framework; the latter in an attempt to embody a ‘community’. The provision of dual data sets permits the relationship between these two denotations of Irish to be assessed. These findings are compared with household information attained for every household in the entire city for 1851 and 1881. The opportunity provided by this smaller canvas is taken to examine the characteristics of selected families or individuals, not necessarily part of the dominant ‘Celtic Catholic’ grouping.
Findings contribute to the view that the experience of migrants varied in different cities. For Coventry an especial response was prompted by its benign municipal character and fluctuating prosperity, volume of Irish migrants and their heterogeneous background. An interplay of factors influenced migrant adjustment and shaped settlement pattern. Migrants were neither seriously segregated, nor placed in a defensive stance. Subsequent generations, while conscious of their heritage, were found on the path towards integration by end of century.
Date of AwardOct 2019
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPeter O'Connor (Supervisor) & Kyle Hughes (Supervisor)


  • Irish
  • Migration
  • Coventry

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