Trinity College, founded in 1592, has an unusually long, successful and innovative record in the academic study of history. The Erasmus Smith’s professorship of Modern History was established in 1762 and one of its first incumbents was the celebrated J.B. Bury (1861-1927), author of the classic History of the Roman Empire (1893) and also of a Life of St Patrick (1905) (external) and a History of Freedom of Thought. (1914) (external) Bury’s successors included several distinguished historians of modern Ireland, including T.W. Moody (1907-84) and F.S.L. Lyons (1923-83), under whose guidance, from the 1930s, the Department played a leading role in the creation of a critical school of modern Irish historical scholarship. The current occupant of the Erasmus Smith’s chair is Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, a historian of the seventeenth-century Irish nobility.
A second professorial chair, the Lecky Professorship in History, was established in 1913. The chair’s occupants have included several notable historians of medieval Ireland, including Edmund Curtis (1881-1943), A.J. Otway-Ruthven (1909-89) and J.F. Lydon (1928-). For further details, see Peter Crooks, ‘The Lecky professors’, in P. Crooks, ed., Government, War and Society in Medieval Ireland (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008). The current holder of the Lecky chair is Professor I.S. Robinson, a specialist in the history of popes and emperors in the high middle ages.
Initially medieval and modern history were taught in the same department but, as in many universities, two separate Departments of Medieval and Modern History were established in 1965, maintaining their existence until reunited in 2005. At that point the combined Department of History was linked with Classics, History of Art and Gender Studies to form the School of Histories and Humanities. The History Department retains, however, its distinctive identity and it remains committed to its tradition of rigorous and innovative scholarship. It has recently, for example, been in the forefront of collaborative ventures with IT specialists designed to digitize important historical records.
The present Department of History has over twenty full-time academics, along with several post-doctoral fellows, a substantial body of postgraduate research students, and a thriving group of graduate students following taught M. Phil courses. Consistently rated as ‘excellent’ in external reviews, the Department enjoys an international research profile in a several areas, most notably in the history of Ireland from the Middle Ages to the present day. In addition to its expertise in Irish history, the Department also includes specialists in European history, especially in France and Germany, and in non-European history. Themes covered include historiography, archaeology, migration and settlement, religion, diplomacy, politics and warfare.
Staff are accessible, ready to listen to students' ideas and open to interdisciplinary approaches. We pride ourselves on our ability and willingness to give personal attention to undergraduate and graduate students and on the atmosphere of mutual assistance and respect that prevails among staff and students.