"Little more than a winter home": An historical archaeology of Irish seasonal migration at Slievemore, Achill Island

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Douglas Armstrong


Ireland, Achill Island, Seasonal migration, Havest migration, Irish, County Mayo

Subject Categories

Anthropology | Archaeological Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | European History | History | Social and Behavioral Sciences


Historians, economists, geographers and demographers have relied on economic explanations to classify 19 th and 20 th century seasonal migration from Ireland as a practice arising from necessity. According to these explanations, seasonal migration was simultaneously caused and supported by the dual factors of rural poverty in Ireland and a need for harvest labor in Scotland and England beginning in the late 18 th century. These economic perspectives have consistently oversimplified this complex practice and obfuscated the agentive actions of migrants and the impacts on their home communities. Though seasonal migration has been addressed at a general level, analysis of the practice from a specific location in Ireland is absent. In this project I explore the practice of seasonal migration from Slievemore--a village located on Achill Island, County Mayo, Ireland--in diachronic perspective from the late 18 th through the 20 th centuries. I synthesize multiple strands of data, including oral histories, textual resources, materials analysis, and archaeological excavation in an investigation of agency, social structure, and households as they relate to seasonal migration at Slievemore.

Households and migrants are situated against multiple scales of analysis, including local, regional, national, and international contexts. An historical archaeological approach provides the opportunity to articulate the complexity of historic and modern constructions of Slievemore, and more broadly of Achill Island, as peripheral, insular, and impoverished. Utilizing data collected from household archaeology, textual studies, and oral histories, I show that in fact the participation of Slievemore's residents in seasonal migration and their maintenance of traditional social practices indicate the complex and dynamic results of agency and practice.


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