"Beyond the pale" originated from the limits, the palisades that the Normans erected around their incursions encircling Dublin. Outside of that tamed territory, Hibernian natives lurked, uncivilized according to the conquerors' suppositions. David Emmons, historian at the University of Montana, adapts this title cleverly. For in the American expansion, the immigrant Irish were also seen by Protestant counterparts as inferior, and relegated to the margins socially and spatially. In the growing U.S., contrary to stereotype, some “two-boat” Irish Catholics settled for neither shanty nor tenement.
Industry demanded cheap, expendable frontier labor. The mines and mills erected, often by Protestant capitalists, attracted desperate Irish. Outnumbered, they formed communities and institutions to secure themselves in hostile territory. Having studied this phenomenon in the Irish-dominated enclave of Butte, Emmons in this follow-up expands his focus to eight different concepts of "the West" in the American imagination and fact. He compares or contrasts Irish Catholic experiences with those of black slaves and Native Americans, broadening this 2011 book's relevance today.
It rewards careful reading. It's accessible, with folk stories and testimonies drawn from archival research. Its hundred-page list of documentation attests to Emmons' scope and discipline. Attention to detail regarding his claims, therefore, is expected.