Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Bookshelf: Identity, Conflict, and Cooperation edited by Hammack, Grabowski and Grabowski

This summer I will be participating in "Passages: Community Memory and Landmarks of Migration" a a six-day National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) -sponsored Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop for Community College Faculty. The initial literature for the program asked: From the program website:
  • Are you interested in seeing American migration and immigration history through a different lens? 
  • Can you read buildings and landscapes? 
  • Do you believe that myth often trumps reality? 
  • Are history and heritage equal partners?
  • Are you interested in having discussions with some of the leading experts on American immigration history? 
  • How would you construct a monument to your own ethnic memory?
To which I answered: always, yes, usually, sometimes, absolutely, no idea. Then I sent in my application form. The workshops will use Cleveland and its immigration history as a backdrop for discussions of national trends. I can't wait!
The reading list for the program is extensive and includes six titles, but all sound very intriguing. I've recently finished Identity, Conflict, and Cooperation: Central Europeans in Cleveland, 1850-1930 edited by David C. Hammack, Diane L. Grabowski and John J. Grabowski. The last named editor is one of the facilitators of the workshop.
Obviously, this book does not discuss the Scottish Diaspora, but I found my understanding of Scotch Settlement enriched by reading about other immigrant communities. The volume under consideration investigates six immigrant groups (Czech, Slovak, Magyar, Croatians, Slovenes, and Polish) from the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and details their reasons for migration and experiences in Cleveland. Included in each section are discussions on the groups interaction with each other, with "native" Americans, politics in America and their homelands, creation of institutions, and involvement with the labor movement.
As I read each section I began to wonder what the experience was like for Scots during this same time period. While Scots had been coming to the United States since the seventeenth century, the circumstances in the sending and receiving countries were constantly changing. Were  Scottish emigrants arriving after 1850 more likely to be radical - supporting socialism and workers rights? Did they sign right up with the "tartanized" image of their homeland? How many intended to return after earning capital in America? Were they more concerned with politics in Britain than America? 
I also began to wonder if a similar collection could be done for Scots, English, Welsh and Irish communities in the industrializing cities of the United States at the turn of the twentieth century. Or maybe instead of picking one city, examine the Scottish experience in several cities worldwide. I'd read it. Anybody game?
A note to family historians: If you have ancestry from Central Europe this is a great book, especially if they settled in Cleveland. There is one self-contained chapter per ethnic group and each gives a really great feel for the community - where it was, employment patterns, establishment of churches, tensions between community members - and will provide an excellent glimpse into these lost immigrant world.


Chris Staats said...

So when will you start writing this book you hope to be reading?

Amanda E. Epperson said...

Well, I'd rather edit it than write it. But I suppose if I won the lottery, things would be different. Of course, I'd have a better chance of winning if I actually bought tickets. :)


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