During the nineteenth century, the Irish became the most numerous immigrant group in Britain. Their contribution to the labour force, across a wide range of occupations, made them an important part of the story of British industrialisation. At the same time, arriving as they did at a time of dramatic and unsettling social and economic change, they became scapegoats for a wide range of fears and anxieties. The negative terms in which they were described by contemporaries have until recently continued to distort perceptions of their history. More recent work, however, has brought to light the variety of their experience, and the extent to which the migrants were not merely passive victims but central actors in their own story.