“The blackest shadows are cast by the Irish quarter”: the making of Stafford Street, Wolverhampton, 1832-1882

Briercliffe, Simon Neil (2022). “The blackest shadows are cast by the Irish quarter”: the making of Stafford Street, Wolverhampton, 1832-1882. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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This thesis seeks to understand the so-called Irish quarters that prompted speculation, condemnation and intervention in mid-Victorian cities. I analyse material and discursive constructions of the Irish quarter using spatial thinking and cross-disciplinary methodologies including GIS mapping and discourse analysis. Scholars of the Irish in Britain have typically studied the Irish as discrete and separate communities. Urban historians have studied the material and cultural construction of the Victorian slum. I draw these historiographies together by analysing the how the Irish quarter came to be: how the Irish were understood at local level, within contemporary understandings of race; how such neighbourhoods gained their notorious reputations; and how the self-perception of the Irish contributed to these spaces. To investigate this, I focus on the Stafford Street neighbourhood of Wolverhampton, synonymous with its Irish community in the mid-Victorian era.

To outsiders, Stafford Street’s reputation was formed through territorial stigmatisation, religious discrimination and policing choices, viewed through lenses such as sanitary reform, criminal behaviour and anti-Catholicism, shaped by the power structures which formed Wulfrunian and British identities in the mid-nineteenth century. For residents however, everyday relationships and networks, supplemented by intertwining religious and political understandings of Irishness, formed a uniquely diasporic Irish space. I argue that rather than forming an Irish enclave or simply an imagined community, the Irish quarter was a very real diaspora space in which Irishness, Englishness, class, race and place were constantly revised and renegotiated. I argue too that space is a useful category of historical analysis for understanding marginalised communities, a means to access histories of those often deemed an inaccessible mass.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D204 Modern History
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social Sciences > HT Communities. Classes. Races
URI: http://etheses.bham.ac.uk/id/eprint/12669


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