The Sixteenth Conference of Irish Historians in Britain was held at Warwick from
12 to 14 September. The conference has met on a biennial basis since 1977, moving
around various universities in England, Scotland and Wales. This was its first time at
Warwick. Since its beginnings, when it formed a network of our younger scholars to
get together on a regular basis, the Conference has flourished, grown and attracted an
interesting mix of scholars and members of the public. The Conference of Irish
Historians in Britain has made an important contribution to Irish Studies in this island
and beyond: it was at our meetings that Tom Paulin first delivered to his paper
‘Paisley’s Progress’ and that Brendan Bradshaw’s paper on ‘Nationalism and
Historical Scholarship in Ireland’ launched the ‘revisionist controversy’. More
generally, the conference has played a part in the heightened profile of Irish culture in
this island, and in promoting an increased understanding of the complicated history
between the two countries.
The theme for this year’s conference was ‘Women, Gender and the Nation’.
Among the papers delivered by eminent scholars in the field of Irish history were
those by Professor Toby Barnard who spoke on women as authors in eighteenthcentury Ireland; Dr James Kelly discussed the place of women in health care in late
early modern Ireland and Professor Roy Foster delivered a paper on the controversial
Hugh Lane Art collection.
Younger scholars addressed, amongst other issues, topics relating to masculinity,
gender and madness in Ireland, women in the workhouse, and how gender and
sexuality shaped welfare provision in Independent Ireland. Dr William Murphy, with
the wonderfully titled paper, ‘“What is good enough for the suffragettes…”:
methodological kleptomania and prison protest in Ireland’ enlightened us about the
use of hunger strike as a political weapon in the Irish context, and the refusal of the
many of the Civil War hunger strikers to acknowledge that their tactics were strongly
influenced and shaped by those of the suffragettes.
It was a stimulating weekend, where new work in the area of gender was
showcased, much of which will find its way into forthcoming publications.
Professor Maria Luddy
Department of History
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The Sixteenth Conference of Irish Historians in Britain