The tendency in the teaching of Irish history at second and third level is to acknowledge that a lot of Irish people left the country in the second half of the nineteenth century, and to then ignore what happened to them after they departed. To what extent did Irish people contribute to the history and development of North America? How supportive were Irish exiles of the cause of Irish nationalism, and indeed Irish unionism, in the 19th and 20th centuries? This course aims to fill a major gap in the teaching of Irish history by examining what became of Irish men and women after they stepped on board emigrant ships to North America. It will focus on the wider experience of exile, discrimination, coming to terms with new political realities, organisation, corruption, achievement and integration. It will also highlight the individual narratives of some extraordinary Irish male and female exiles. The course will focus equally on Irish migration to the eastern and western USA. The latter has also been widely ignored in Irish-American historiography.

If paying in instalments by direct debit, the deposit to book a place is €150 and the balance is split into three equal monthly payments.

Course Content

1.  Famine And Post-Famine Migration

The statistics of 19th century Irish migration to North America – the ‘coffin ships’ of the Atlantic – the horrors of Belle Isle – the ‘Five Points’ of New York – opposition to Irish immigration – the rise of the ‘Know Nothing’ party in the USA – the Irish and US machine politics.

2. The Fighting Irish

With the prevalence of a ‘No Irish Need Apply’ philosophy, how the Irish joined the American military in huge numbers – comprising up to 40% of the peacetime force –  The San Patricios, the Irish-American deserters who fought for Mexico in the Mexican-American War – The Irish (Union and Confederate) in the American Civil War  – Irish in the Frontier Army during the ‘Indian Wars’ of 1860 – 1890.

3. Irish Pioneers

Irish migrants on the California and Oregon trails-  the first Irish Fur Trappers who helped open up the American West  –  the Murphys and the origins of San José  – the tragedy of the Donner Party – the later career of Thomas Fitzpatrick.

4. Nationalist Agitators

How the Irish diaspora supported the causes of land agitation, Home Rule and Fenianism back in Ireland – the incautious activism of O’Donovan Rossa – the rise of John Devoy and Clan na Gael – internecine unrest and the Cronin murder in Chicago  – infiltrating the Fenians, the story of the ace informer Henri Le Caron – Devoy and the IRB Military council plan for the 1916 Rising –  De Valera and the swamp of Irish-American politics  – the Friends of Irish Freedom, Ireland and the putative League of Nations.

5. Irish American Journalism

The travel and political writings of John Ross Browne – Charles Graham Halpine and Tammany Hall – Samuel McClure, Edwin Godkin and muckraking journalism – O’Donovan Rossa, Patrick Ford and the Irish-American ‘assassination press’.

6. How The Irish Won The West  

The Irish who were on both sides of the law enforcement equation in the ‘Wild West’ – the Lincoln County War – the Johnson County War – The San Francisco Irish.

7. The Canadian Irish

Paul Kane, the father of Canadian Art – the assassination of Thomas d’Arcy McGee – the Fenian invasions of the 1860s – the Orange Order in Canada.

8. Real Gold And Liquid Gold

The Molly Maguires in the Pennsylvania anthracite mines –  the Comstock lode – the women who ‘mined the miners’ in the American west – the Irish ‘Silver Kings’ of Nevada – the ‘Copper King’ Marcus Daly – the Irish of Bodie, CA – mining and miners’ agitation in Butte, Montana- the two Irishmen who brought water to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

9. The Irish And The Birth Of American Sport

 How Irish players dominated 19th-century baseball – Irish field athletes and the early Olympics  –the New York Gaelic Athletic Club – Irish-America and the ‘noble art’ of boxing – the rise of Gentleman Jim from San Francisco.

10. Representations Of The Irish In North America

The template of Punch crosses the Atlantic – Thomas Nast and the Simian Irish  –The San Francisco  Wasp and the Workingmen’s Party of California – the fictional Irishman with a purpose, Miles O’Reilly and Mr. Dooley.


A pass grade on the written assignment will be required for awarding of the Diploma.



Dr Myles Dungan

Myles Dungan is a broadcaster and journalist with more than forty years experience of working in Irish radio and TV, as a presenter and programme maker. He has, since 1980, presented Five Seven Live, Rattlebag, Today with Myles Dungan, The History Show and Prime Time on RTE Radio and TV. In 2012 he received a PhD in History from Trinity College, Dublin and has taught at undergraduate level and as an adjunct lecturer in the University of California, Berkeley, Trinity College, Dublin, University College, Dublin, the Dublin Institute of Technology as well as City Colleges.

He is the author of more than a dozen books on Irish and American History, including Irish Voices from the Great War and Conspiracy: Irish Political Trials. He is the recipient of two Fulbright Awards to the University of California, Berkeley as a researcher (2007) and a teacher (2011). He is also the recipient of numerous awards for his radio work, including a Jacob’s Award in 1988 for the 13-part radio documentary series, Vietnam. He is the programme director of the annual Hinterland Festival.

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Diploma in Irish-American Diaspora


6:30 PM - 9:30 PM

Dr Myles Dungan