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.

We have 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 .

Current major research projects include a comparative study of political unions in European history, a global history of Irish revolution, 1916-1923 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 Irish universities and the Irish Research Council, and there is an ERASMUS exchange link with the Department of History at Trinity College Dublin. 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 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. 

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 and England as well the principal countries in which the Irish have settled in 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.


The activities of the group include hosting a themed seminar series, which features many of the most original scholars working in the field from Ireland, Britain and further afield, a fortnightly graduate workshop, and the annual Arbuthnott Lecture in British-Irish Relations, delivered in recent years by Mary E. Daly, Fintan O’Toole, Roy Foster and Tom Bartlett. In 2014 Edinburgh hosted the 19th Conference of Irish Historians in Britain on the theme of 'Ireland, Scotland and Empire'.

A series of commemorative events to mark 1916 was hosted in 2016, with funding from the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and included lectures by Joe Lee, Declan Kiberd, Caitriona Crowe and Fearghal McGarry. A special event to mark the life and legacy of the Irish republican leader James Connolly was held in June 2016, and addressed by the President of Ireland, Mr Michael D Higgins. We regularly host other symposia and workshops on aspects of Irish history including recent events on 'Writing the Troubles' and 'Transnational Irish History'.




Academic staff members

Honorary and emeritus

PhD students

  • Catherine Bateson  (AHRC Studentship) - American Civil War songs and Irish American Sentiments
  • Stuart Clark (Carnegie Trust) - Entangled Histories? Scottish-Irish Interactions, c. 1800-1925
  • Joseph Curran (ESRC Studentship) - Civil Society in the Stateless Capital: Charity and Authority and Dublin and Edinburgh, c.1812-c.1845
  • Roseanna Doughty - British Media Representations of the (P)IRA and its impact on the Irish Community, 1969-1997
  • Gareth Lyle - Belfast and the Great War: A Case Study
  • Bobbie Nolan (AHRC Studentship) - Language and Identity among Irish Migrants in San Francisco, Philadelphia and London, 1850-1920

Completed PhD students

  • Sophie Cooper (McFarlane Scholar) - Identity and Nationalism in the Irish Diaspora: Melbourne and Chicago, 1850-1890, Lecturer in US and British World History at Northumbria University
  • Thomas Dolan (AHRC Studentship) - History in the Thought of the Architects of Peace in Northern Ireland
  • Lindsey Flewelling – Ulster Unionism and America, 1880-1920, Assistant Professor of History, Colorado College

  • Devon McHugh - Family, Leisure, and the Arts: Aspects of the Culture of the Aristocracy of Ulster, 1870-1925, Senior Partnerships Manager, Museums Galleries Scotland

  • Helen O’Shea (AHRC Studentship) - Ireland and the Cyprus Insurgency, Lecturer in History at the University of Dundee

  • Andrew Phemister (School Doctoral Award) - ‘Our American Aristotle’: Henry George and the Republican Tradition during the Transatlantic Irish Land War, 1877-1887, Postdoctoral Research Fellow at IASH

  • Melaine Sayers - Philip Kerr, Lord Lothian, and Ireland

Useful links

Irish History seminars