Two reviews, more to come…

I reviewed two history books recently—Cian T. McMahon’s The Global Dimensions of Irish Identity: Race, Nation, and the Popular Press, 1840-1880, and Benjamin P. Fagan’s The Black Newspaper and the Chosen Nation—for the Journal of American Studies and the Journal of American Ethnic History, respectively.

McMahon follows “Young Ireland,” a group of middle-class intellectuals and activists, charting their legacy in Ireland, Australia, and the United States in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, in part through their “international misadventures.” McMahon is convincing in his portrayal of “Irish global nationalism,” including the expression of strong transnational and often cross-racial identities among the Irish. In my review I ask whether McMahon adequately explores the extent to which Irish in the United States “fortified notions of whiteness in their quest to widen the borders of American belonging.”

Fagan’s compelling study of black newspapers traces, from the early 1820s through the Civil War, different expressions of “chosenness”—the author’s term for antebellum African Americans’ belief that God had tasked slaves and freemen with bringing about mankind’s liberation. Like me, Fagan focusses on individual editors, but frequently broadens his approach, examining newspapers as sites of sometimes-contradictory correspondence, business interests, and visual culture.


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