Irish in the mining industry in England and Wales: evidence from the 1881 census

Malcolm Smith, Don MacRaild

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Historians have largely accepted early Victorian accounts suggesting that the Irish were primarily a source of unskilled labour which was under-represented in the coal industry in England and Wales. Such acceptance fits with stereotypes of the Irish as a primarily unskilled labour source. The thesis that the Irish were excluded from the Victorian coal industry is tested by a comprehensive quantitative analysis, using log-odds ratios and associated significance tests of data from the digitised transcription of the 1881 census of England and Wales. This is the first major, nationwide, statistical analysis of its type. Its findings demonstrate that whilst many Irish workers clearly did find work in the coal industry, the Irish continued to be under-represented in the industry as a whole, and in skilled and better-paid work in particular. This suggests the persistence of some of the causes of their earlier exclusion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)37-62
JournalIrish Economic and Social History
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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