This vibrant biography of Griffintown, an inner-city Irish Catholic neighbourhood in Montreal, brings to life the history of Irish identity in the legendary enclave. Once a destination for many from the Emerald Isle, Montreal saw Irish immigration dwindle in the late nineteenth century. Irish culture in the city became diasporic: images and ideas of Ireland reflected an imagined homeland, a vision passed down through generations and filtered through the long Irish experience in Montreal.
Focusing on the power of memory to shape community, Matthew Barlow examines how current and former residents have responded over time to the claims of city officials and developers. How has Griffintown dealt with a declining population, repeated and controversial attempts at urban renewal, and increasing uncertainty about Quebec’s political future?
If, by the 1970s, Griffintown was derelict and all but abandoned, beginning in the late 1990s, the neighbourhood underwent a symbolic rebirth. As Barlow demonstrates, the spirit of this ethnic quarter was nurtured not by the leaders of Irish Montreal but by the former working-class men and women who grew up there. Today, as the neighbourhood attracts renewed interest from developers, this textured analysis offers a glimpse into how public memory defines our urban centres.
Matthew Barlow has also worked on a series of short films that recount the fascinating social history of Griffintown. Watch them at www.griffintowntour.com.
This book will appeal to students and scholars of Irish diaspora studies, ethnic studies, memory studies, public history, urban history, the history of Montreal, the history of Quebec, and the history of Canada.
Matthew Barlow has written an in-depth history of the Irish in Griffintown, one that has been virtually overlooked until now. This is a fascinating account of the influence of ethnicity, class, politics, religion, and history in the construction of cultural identity. If you want to understand Griffintown and the Irish, this is the book for you.
Even readers who have never heard of Griffintown before opening up this book will come to care for it – and will be inspired to reconsider the history and future of their own neighbourhoods and hometowns.
1 Nations and Nationalism in Griffintown, 1900–14
2 Griffintown from the First World War to Irish Independence, 1914–22
3 The Last Stand of Irish-Catholic Griffintown, 1929–45
4 The Death of Griffintown, 1945–75
5 The Griffintown Commemorative Project, 1991–2010
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