Cover for Blewett: The Yankee Yorkshireman: Migration Lived and Imagined. Click for larger image

The Yankee Yorkshireman

Migration Lived and Imagined

Understanding migration through the lives and fiction of migrant workers in New England

This study is a textual and contextual appraisal of the writings of Yorkshire-born Hedley Smith (1909-94), whose depiction of the fictional mill village of Briardale, Rhode Island, captures an early twentieth-century labor diaspora peopled with textile workers. Enraged and embittered at the transformatory experience of his own emigration, Smith used fiction to explore Yorkshire immigrants' culture and stubborn refusal to assimilate, their vital sexuality, and their vivid social customs. As Smith's writings reveal, emigration involves grief and anger, often universally concealed and problematic. Creating a rich panoply of characters meant to convey the superiority of Yorkshire life and culture, Smith came to take pride in his writings, his children and grandchildren, and to a degree, came to accept his new life in America. He never returned to Yorkshire.

Adopting a transnational perspective, Mary H. Blewett links Smith's fictional community to empirical data on the substance of working-class lives both in Yorkshire and in New England's worsted textile industries. Demonstrating clearly that English immigrants often resisted and sometimes refused assimilation into American society, The Yankee Yorkshireman offers a deepened understanding of migration, ethnicity, gender, and class as both lived and imagined experiences in a transnational culture.


"[A] fascinating biography."--American Historical Review

"Deserves to be read by all scholars and students interested in migration and dislocation."--Journal of American Ethnic History

"In a stimulating way, Blewett interweaves labor, community, technology, gender, and sexuality in a story of the textile industry in a local, regional, British and Atlantic context. A truly significant contribution."--Dirk Hoerder, author of Cultures in Contact: World Migrations in the Second Millennium


Mary H. Blewett is a professor emerita of history at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the author of Constant Turmoil: The Politics of Industrial Life in Nineteenth-Century New England.

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