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10 thoughts on “The Boston Irish: A Political History

  1. says:

    In his summary of the rise of the Irish in Boston politics, Thomas H O Connor does a good job of tracing the surge of the Irish in Boston politics However, I do think it is lacking in some of the recent events of the Irish in Boston politics Keeping in mind the book was published in 1995, there was still a lot of information not included in the recent era of the Irish in Boston politics particularly during Mayor Flynn s administration While O Connor does a wonderful job of describing the beginnings of the Irish communities in Boston and their rise in the political system of the state, he seems to gloss over the tumultuous times of the recent changes in Boston Specifically, I was a little disappointed to not see a lot about how Boston reacted to the times and deaths of John F Kennedy and Robert Kennedy I also knew stories about Mayor Flynn than were included in the book He also, perhaps wisely, avoided writing about the James and Billy Bulger connections Granted, you cannot include all of the stories and factoids of each administration But most of the stories he recounted were heavily weighed towards the early rise of the Irish in Boston All that being said, I did find the stories of the rise of the Irish in Boston politics to be very interesting and insightful O Connor a Boston College graduate gives a very detailed description of Boston during the early days of the Irish in Boston In addition to describing the obstacles and discrimination they faced he also explains how moderate Irish members of the Democratic Party were successful, and arguably an essential group, in the rise of the Irish in Boston politics since they were able to gain acceptance and support from the Brahmins as well as the Irish which ensured solid support across parties and social groups I did find his rather broad sweeping descriptions of the irish to be a bit stereotypical and not very accurate Again, the book was published over two decades ago and times have changed over this period Also, the Irish of my generation and my locale just south of Boston may very well be different from the Irish in the neighborhoods of Boston But his descriptions of the Irish seemed both outdated and simplistic Overall, I would say O Connor did a good job of describing the history of the Irish in Boston politics and I would recommend the book for anyone interested in learning about this history especially if you re interested in early Irish Boston politics.


  2. says:

    A very well written piece that really manages to remain interesting and engaging throughout its narrative in comparison to many dry works of Academic History O Connor begins by giving the reader a greater historical background about the City of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts prior to the large scale arrival of Irish Catholics in the early 19th Century namely, that for two centuries prior, the area had been one of the most homogenously Anglo Saxon English descended and Protestant and of that, largely Congregationalist and Episcopal places than anywhere outside of England itself Although there was a sprinkling of Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics, both kept a low profile, and the city was vehemently anti Irish and anti Catholic With the onset of the Irish Famine in the 1840s, Boston was inundated with a wave of Irish Catholic immigrants that would quickly alter its demographics such that by 1870 the population was over one third Irish From poverty and discrimination, the Boston Irish soon became a strong political force in Boston challenging the City s traditional Yankee elite through the leadership of titans such as Martin Lomasney, Patrick Collins, Hugh O Brien, James Michael Curley, and John Honey Fitz Fitzgerald By the Post Second World War Period, Boston s Irish community was thoroughly integrated and Americanized however a rift developed between upwardly mobile Irish Americans who moved to the Suburbs and those who remained in the old ethnic neighborhoods such as South Boston, Charlestown, and Dorchester, who increasingly began to resent and resist what they felt like encroachments on their neighborhoods from outside elites in terms of busing, school integration, and housing This a very informative and interesting read for anyone who has lived in Boston or is interested in its history.


  3. says:

    Reorganizing my bookcases, I realized that I d never reviewed this book, read a few years before I joined Goodreads What I loved is its sense of irony that Boston evolved into a place where the ethnic Irish would thrive While every history of America s immigrants discusses prejudice, O Connor explores the unique challenges posed by Boston, with its entrenched Yankee class Yankee means something entirely different in Beantown than in the rest of the US The book validated the stories I d heard about NINA signs, as well as my childhood experience with Yankee hostility in the mid 20th century O Connor paints Boston s Irish as neither victims nor heroes, but as people with a lot of resilience and a long memory, for good and bad The book provides an authentic sense of place and taught me a lot I didn t know about my hometown and my ethnic roots.


  4. says:

    Masterful, engaging, page turning account of how Irish immigrants rose from derision to lead Boston at the turn of the 20th Century This book was written by Thomas H O Connor, the dean of Boston s history I had the pleasure of taking 2 graduate courses with him, and meeting him for my subsequent thesis Anyone living in Boston should enjoy this book


  5. says:

    A little too political for my tastes, but interesting nonetheless Some of my maternal grandparents traits are explained, and I ll henceforth be referring to them as two toilet Irish.


  6. says:

    A ripping overview of the progress of the Irish into Boston society and politics.


  7. says:

    Great book which gave me great background context to the city s people and cultural evolution.


  8. says:

    Still reading this It is a good history for anyone who is of Irish descent from Boston, or for someone who wants to understand the Irish of Boston.


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