By David Emmons
University of Oklahoma Press, 2007
Hardcover, 472 pages
Appendix, bibliography, index
Beyond the American Pale: The Irish in the West, 1845-1910, written by University of Montana historian David Emmons, takes a fresh approach to the written history of the West by focusing on the heretofore little-explored role of the Irish in the American West and particularly in Butte, Montana, where many Irish and their descendants settled in the nineteenth century to work in the local mines.
The book’s focus is not so much on specific historical events but is instead a more scholarly discussion and analysis on the role that Irish-Americans -- and their Catholicism -- played in the West between 1845 and 1910. Emmons presents detailed historical data in his work (one example is the total of Irish-born population of selected Western states and the Irish percentage of the total foreign-born populations in these states in 1900), and analyses this data in a first-person context, which is unusual for history books that are not intended to be first-person histories.
In some ways, Emmon’s book almost reads like Ph.D. thesis, and its technical approach and analysis might not be for the causal reader. But its careful and exhaustive research makes the book an excellent reference for historians and those seeking specific information on the history of the Irish in the West.
By Phil Dougherty, May 15, 2011