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Breaking the Silence

Irish Center for Migration Studies

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In the 1950s, Ireland experienced a period of heavy emigration�the heaviest in the twentieth century. This oral history project has collected seventy-eight oral and twelve written life histories from Irish men and women whose stories focus on their decision to emigrate or to stay in Ireland. The people interviewed represent a broad spectrum of Irish life, but were all born between 1910 and 1940. The majority are non-emigrants, though virtually all of those interviewed speak of family members or close friends who chose to emigrate. The oral histories, which range in length from twelve minutes to more than three hours, are available as streaming audio, and are described minute-by-minute�helpful for those searching for specific information. To contextualize these life histories, the website includes thirty newspaper clippings, poems, and songs on Ireland in the 1950s, more than 500 photographs of daily life in Ireland, and official statistics on emigration. These sources highlight prominent themes surrounding Ireland’s demographic crisis in the 1950s, including modernization and changes in traditional ways of life.

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