“Residing in this distant portion of the great empire”: The Irish in Imperial Halifax, Nova Scotia
Halifax, Nova Scotia, was one of Britain’s most important naval installations. Built in 1749, to counter the French fortress of Louisbourg further up the Atlantic coast on Cape Breton Island, by 1800 Halifax was a thriving metropolis with great wealth amassed in trade and military contracts. As an important imperial outpost, Halifax attracted settlers from all over the Atlantic world, including a large community of pre-famine Irish Catholics. Often portrayed as victims or opponents of imperialism, the battles that Irish Catholics waged in Fortress Halifax were primarily internal. Members of both British and Catholic empires, the community struggled to maintain the balance. While sectarianism was an issue, the Halifax-Irish were active in the institutional development of this important imperial city and, in fact, were empire builders.