History KS3 / GCSE: The Irish migrants who moved to Liverpool in the Industrial Revolution

During the 1800s tens of thousands of poor Irish labourers and their families left Ireland to find work in Britain during the Industrial Revolution.

Large numbers came to, and settled in, Liverpool, and faced terrible conditions.

Cholera and other diseases spread and their arrival eventually promoted the beginning of the British public health system.

Historian David Olusoga visits Liverpool Public Record Office and meets local historian Sam Caslin, who is an expert on this period in Liverpool’s history.

This short film looks at the contribution of Irish migrants to Britain’s Industrial Revolution, and how this country owes much of its transport network and housing stock to their work here.

This short film is from the BBC series, Migration.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 3

This short film could lead to many different enquiries:

  • The relationship between Britain and Ireland.
  • The potato famine.
  • Housing conditions.

It offers an opportunity to look at the British Industrial Revolution through the lives of people who built its transport networks and worked its machines.

Students could do a photo essay in the area around their home or school, showing every aspect of their built environment that will have been created by 19th century labourers, many of them probably Irish.

In the film, local historian Sam Caslin shows how much can be learnt from a range of documents: mortality map, register of deaths, public health report, sanitation law, photos, etc.

If there is access to similar documents for the school’s locality then an enquiry into Victorian conditions can be built around them.

Key Stage 4

This short film covers three key themes:

  • The reasons why Irish people migrated.
  • Their experiences in Liverpool.
  • Their impact on Britain.

Students could create diagrams or posters, make presentations or write using the film’s handling of these themes as a starting point.

In the film some reasons are explained for growing resentment against Irish immigration, these could be compared with other periods:

  • Antagonism to medieval Flemings.
  • Early or mid 20th century Jews.
  • Commonwealth immigrants.

The focus in the film on ancestry could encourage students to find out about their own family histories and stories of migration.

The film is equally useful for a study of public health in industrial Britain: stills of the rich supply of photos of conditions in Liverpool court dwellings could be used for discussion of housing and sanitation conditions.

Sam Caslin shows a ‘poverty map’ of Liverpool and there may be a similar 19th century map of the school’s locality (e.g. Booth’s maps of London), that students can investigate.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching history at KS3 and KS4/GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and Fourth Level and National 4 and 5 in Scotland.

More from Migration:

The story of black migrants in Tudor England
The story of the Palatines who migrated to Britain in the 1700s
Black people in Britain during the Atlantic slave trade era
The story of British indentured workers emigrating to America
How British migrants made fortunes working for the East India Company
Jewish migration to Manchester in the late 1800s