School of History, Classics & Archaeology

Irish History Research Group

Edinburgh University is one of the world’s leading centres for the advanced study of modern Irish history, with a tradition of excellence dating back over 40 years.

A Black and Tan on duty in Dublin.
A Black and Tan on duty in Dublin.

Irish History Research Group

The Group has unique strengths in the history of Ireland under the Union (1801-1921), Irish-British relations, the history of nationalism and unionism, comparative and transnational history, Scottish-Irish history, and the history of the global Irish diaspora since 1700.

Current major research projects include a comparative study of political unions in European history and the Irish encounter with modernity since 1780, supported by a number of prestigious research awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy, the Economic and Social Research Council, the Leverhulme Trust and the Marie Sklodowska-Curie European Commission Programme. Since 2007 we have won over £1 million in highly competitive external funding awards.

We have close working relationships with a number of Irish universities and the Irish Research Council. Two members of the group are Honorary Members of the Royal Irish Academy (only 30 or so scholars in the humanities and social sciences worldwide hold this distinction) and the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and one is a Fellow of the British Academy. One of the group was appointed by the Irish Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht to the Irish Manuscripts Commission, the first such appointment from outside the island of Ireland. We have established links with the modern Irish history group at Cambridge University, including holding regular joint PhD workshops in both Edinburgh and Cambridge. We also work closely with colleagues at the major North American centres of Irish Studies at Boston College, the University of Notre Dame and New York University.

Our aim is to explore the history of modern Ireland in a comparative, transnational and global context, with a particular focus on political, social and cultural relationships with Scotland, England and Wales, as well the principal countries in which the Irish have settled in over the last three centuries.

Graduate students work on a wide range of topics and hold funding awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland, the Economic and Social Research Council as well as University and School studentships. We also host the only PhD scholarship in the UK devoted exclusively to the study of Irish history, the Justin Arbuthnott PhD Scholarship in Modern Irish History.


The activities of the group include hosting a seminar series, which features many of the most original scholars working in the field from Ireland, Britain and further afield, a fortnightly early career researchers’  workshop, and the annual Justin Arbuthnott Lecture in British-Irish Relations, delivered in recent years by distinguished figures including Tom Bartlett,  Mary E. Daly, Diarmaid Ferriter, Fintan O’Toole and Roy Foster.

We regularly host symposia and workshops on aspects of Irish history including recent events on 'Writing the Troubles', ‘The Irish Border’, ‘The 1918 General Election’, ‘Abortion in Ireland: A Transformative Moment?’, 'History, Storytelling and 1916’ and ‘Transnational Irish History'. In July 2022 we will host the ‘Ireland and Sexualities in History’ workshop.

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Modern Irish History seminars

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