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The Scattering: A Family History for a Floating World

Moran, J (2021) The Scattering: A Family History for a Floating World. History Workshop Journal, 92. pp. 4-28. ISSN 1363-3554


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This essay is an experiment in family history, inspired by a journey to scatter my father’s ashes on Scattery – the island in the Shannon estuary where my grandmother was born and raised. It explores how my family’s story illuminates the history of small Irish islands and of two much bigger islands, Ireland and Britain. Island stories replay in microcosm, and with great intensity, broader narratives of Irish and British history since the famine. But they also muddy these narratives with the idiosyncratic, granular experiences of a precise and bounded place. They put human flesh and bones on abstract nouns like family, community, modernity, emigration and exile. In every island story – Scattery as my father’s idyllic land of endless summer, Ireland as the home of sturdy children and happy maidens, Britain as proud island nation taking back control of its borders – lies a fantasy of homogeneity and readability. Even the smallest islands have multilayered histories; and then, as they disperse their peoples across the world as small islands do, those histories keep multiplying. Our journey back to the island may have begun as a search for origins but it ended up revealing the heterogeneity and unrecoverability of the past.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This is a pre-copyedited, author-produced version of an article accepted for publication in History Workshop Journal following peer review. The version of record Joe Moran, The Scattering: a Family History for a Floating World, History Workshop Journal, Volume 92, Autumn 2021, Pages 4–28 is available online at: https://doi.org/10.1093/hwj/dbab015
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2103 Historical Studies
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General)
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: Oxford University Press (OUP)
Date Deposited: 07 Oct 2020 08:25
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2023 00:50
DOI or ID number: 10.1093/hwj/dbab015
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/13806
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