Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




D. P. Gagan




The historiography of Irish migration to British North America in the nineteenth-century has centred predominantly on those migrants who were exiled from Ireland after the Great Famine, 1845-1850. However, a significant number of Irishmen, both Protestant and Catholic, arrived in the Canadas emigrants by choice in the years leading up to the Great Hunger. Their emigrations were often part of family economic strategies and, as such, they arrived in North America with a greater capability for early success. Irish-Canadian historiography, moreover, has focussed primarily on rural settlement, by far the most common choice of Irish migrants in the Canadas. Yet, a significant number of Irishmen did settle in the growing urban centres of nineteenth-century Canada. Research on these migrants has remained undone in the writing of the social history of Canadian immigration. They were anomalous, both as pre-Famine newcomers and as urban dwellers, and in effect, this has been reflected in the broader historiography.

This thesis is a study of the Catholic Irish in one specific urban locale, "Corktown", in Hamilton, Upper Canada, from 1832 to 1847. Irish migrants settled here in this early period establishing an economic and cultural foothold for their countrymen who arrived later in dire circumstances. They founded a neighbourhood out of a series of cluster settlement areas in the southeastern part of the town. Upon this, they built a community whose cultural cohesion was manifest in their Catholic Church, st. Mary's, and in Corktown's taverns, market and merchant shops, and associational life. Because of their uniqueness, and not in spite of it, the urban Catholic Irish in Corktown provide an interesting topic, and a new direction in the historiography of the Irish-Canadians.

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