Talking History: Irish South Australia – New Histories and Insights

Join us for the final Talking History of 2019 to discuss why a book focusing on Irish South Australia is both timely and important.

There was general enthusiasm among the large crowd attending the February launch of the book Irish South Australia: new histories and insights. That response speaks to the delight evident in those of Irish descent or birth – the state’s largest ethnic group until post World War Two migration – about aspects of their history receiving published recognition. Given the large numbers with Irish roots, the sparse historical interest shown in this group (apart from family histories) seems perplexing. Between 2005 and 2014 the serendipitous meeting of four researchers with divergent interest in Irish South Australia across disciplines of Archaeology, English and History was fortuitous and exciting! We didn’t realise it at the time, but our association was creating the critical mass for some challenging and interesting pathways. The foundational step was planning and organising the 22nd Irish-Australian Studies Conference in December 2016, the first held in Adelaide. Nine of the forty-five papers related to Irish South Australia.

And from this successful event, something previously in the realm of fantasy developed – we decided to approach other researchers and work towards an edited volume. Funding from the History Trust of SA and support from Wakefield Press resulted in bringing Irish South Australia: new histories and insights to life. The October Talking History presentation about the book’s timeliness and importance will look briefly at why Irish immigrants came to the colony and how the community developed here. Then there will be a ‘tasting menu’ approach to the book, looking at its major threads. This will be followed by a quick discussion about some of the anomalies in relation to the SA Irish. The conclusion will focus on both the need for more research into this state’s Irish past, and the editorial group’s current focus on the conference this December, the 24th Irish-Australasian Studies conference, again in Adelaide. The theme is ‘Foregrounding Irish Women: the Antipodes and Beyond.’

This free public lecture is part of the History Trust’s Talking History series.

Doors open at 5pm. Event will commence at 5.30pm. Parking available on Torrens Parade Ground, off Victoria Drive. Light refreshments provided before the lecture.


With a full set of Irish-born great grandparents, Stephanie James is passionate about the history of Irish-Australia, with particular emphasis on South Australia. Her MA looked at the early history of the Irish in the colony’s most Irish area, the Clare Valley, while her PhD examined issues of Irish-Australian loyalty during times of Imperial crisis. The Irish Catholic press has been crucial to her research. Her publications have focused on World War One – questions about perceived Irish-Australian disloyalty and surveillance and parallels between the wartime treatment of South Australian German and Irish communities. Most recently her work has involved co-editing Irish South-Australia: new histories and insights, and a chapter in a book dedicated to Professor Eric Richards, entitled, ‘Distress in Ireland 1879-1880: the Activation of the South Australian Community.