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History professor, former student to give talk on ‘The Irish in Illinois’

October 19, 2021

Professor Sean Farrell

History Professor Sean Farrell and his former doctoral student Mathieu Billings have a new book out that sheds light on the history of Irish people in Illinois from the colonial period to the 21st century.

Farrell and Billings, now a faculty associate in history and political science at the University of Indianapolis, will deliver a talk on the book, entitled “The Irish in Illinois” (Southern Illinois University Press), during a reception for faculty, students and invited guests from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 29, at the Thurgood Marshall Gallery in Swen Parson Hall. (Masks are required, and social distancing will be practiced to the extent possible.)

Today over 1 million people in Illinois claim Irish ancestry and celebrate their love for Ireland. In this concise narrative history, the authors bring together both familiar and unheralded stories of the Irish in Illinois, highlighting the critical roles these immigrants and their descendants played in the settlement and the making of the Prairie State. Short biographies and 28 photographs vividly illustrate the significance and diversity of Irish contributions to Illinois.

Mathieu Billings

Billings and Farrell remind us of the countless ways Irish men and women have shaped the history and culture of the state. They fought in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, the Civil War and two world wars; built the state’s infrastructure and worked in its factories; taught Illinois children and served the poor. Irish political leaders helped to draw up the state’s first constitution, served in city, county and state offices, and created a machine that dominated 20th-century politics in Chicago and the state.

This lively history adds to our understanding of the history of the Irish in the state over the past 250 years. Illinoisans and Midwesterners celebrating their connections to Ireland will treasure this rich and important account of the state’s history.