The Global Irish and Chinese: Migration, Exclusion, and Foreign Relations Among Empires, 1784-1904
McCarron, Barry Patrick
This dissertation is the first study to examine the Irish and Chinese interethnic and interracial dynamic in the United States and the British Empire in Australia and Canada during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Utilizing comparative and transnational perspectives and drawing on multinational and multilingual archival research including Chinese language sources, “The Global Irish and Chinese” argues that Irish immigrants were at the forefront of anti-Chinese movements in Australia, Canada, and the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. Their rhetoric and actions gave rise to Chinese immigration restriction legislation and caused major friction in the Qing Empire’s foreign relations with the United States and the British Empire. Moreover, Irish immigrants east and west of the Rocky Mountains and on both sides of the Canada-United States border were central to the formation of a transnational white working-class alliance aimed at restricting the flow of Chinese labor into North America. Looking at the intersections of race, class, ethnicity, and gender, this project reveals a complicated history of relations between the Irish and Chinese in Australia, Canada, and the United States, which began in earnest with the mid-nineteenth century gold rushes in California, New South Wales, Victoria, and British Columbia. While the Irish were often the foremost enemies of the Chinese and the dominant pattern in relations between both groups was one of racial conflict and economic competition, they were also the ethnic group most likely to intermarry with the Chinese and a few were among the most outspoken champions of Chinese racial equality. Chinese sources indicate that the Chinese did not view their “excluders” as a monolithic white nativist constituency but rather often singled out the Irish as culpable in leading and exacerbating anti-Chinese movements. Furthermore, the Chinese were not passive victims but rather challenged their Irish opponents in myriad ways. This study makes sense of the complex relations between the Irish and Chinese in North America and Australia, which provides insights into the study of migration and empire, race and ethnicity, gender and class, and the connections between immigration and foreign relations.
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