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Medieval History Research Centre


The Purpose of the Centre

The Centre promotes research in both Irish and European medieval history, settlement and archaeology. It provides facilities for the interaction and exchange of ideas among the History Department's postgraduate community specialising in those areas, while furnishing a forum where relevant pieces of research from other disciplines in College, such as Botany or the Smurfit Institute of Genetics, have been aired and discussed from a historical viewpoint, and where links are forged with outside institutions with cognate interests, such as Dúchas.

Background to its Establishment

The Centre's recent establishment within the framework of the new School of Histories and Humanities continues a long tradition of group interaction and joint research within the former Department of Medieval History, begun by Professor Otway-Ruthven, when she acquired a set of rooms in Lincoln Place for this purpose in the 1970s. In the beginning the various activities there had a narrowly historical focus, which however included the postgraduate team-work on the Leverhulme funded 'Chancery Rolls Project', involving both practical research conducted in manuscript archives around Britain to retrieve transcripts and summaries of texts from the lost Chancery Rolls of Ireland, and the setting up of a computer database for entering the reconstructed texts, one of the earliest applications of computer technology to this kind of project. It is a matter of great sadness that the premature death of Dr Philomena Connolly of the National Archives in June 2002 halted her plan to come to Trinity in the autumn of that year and produce an English calendar of the reconstructed Chancery rolls in electronic and book form while on secondment from her work as a state archivist.

The addition of Professor T.B. Barry to the Medieval History Department's staff at the end of the 1970s as a 'new blood' appointment, broadened the scope of the group's activities to include settlement history and medieval archaeology, which have proved a major area of postgraduate interest thereafter. Through a number of individual Ph.D. and M.Litt. theses, Prof. Barry's students have been systematically listing and surveying the tower houses of later medieval Ireland county by county. Those of us whose research was based on more literary oradministrative records were able to contribute documentation or literary references on the historical background to the field monuments when the students reported back to the weekly seminars.

Workshops and Conferences

Another by-product of the existing tradition of group activity among the medieval history postgraduates has been the regular organisation by the students of sessions and workshops around particular research themes at major international conferences of medieval studies such as the annual International Congresses at Leeds and Kalamazoo The former Medieval History department also facilitated two annual conferences at Trinity, that of the 'Friends of Medieval Dublin', and the 'Conference on Medieval and Early Modern Women.

Centre's Accommodation and Equipment

At present the Centre is located in three rooms on the first floor of 192 Pearse Street, comprising;

  1. a library, housing rare editions of original sources, specialist journals and reference works, and a constantly updated collection of secondary scholarship and excavation reports
  2. a seminar room with blackboard, screen and projectors (slide, overhead and computer), and seating for an audience of c. 20 with overflow shelves for the library holdings
  3. a kitchen/storeroom with shelves for series of lesser-used journals and display cases of some archaeological artefacts kept for typological purposes. Also stored are boxes of microfilms of manuscripts from the London Public Record Office and elsewhere, including a complete set of microfilms of the registers of the medieval Archbishops of Armagh. We have a number of microfilm readers, specialised surveying equipment and digital cameras. Both the library and the seminar room contain computers connected to the college server, networked printers and a xerox machine.

Users of the Centre

There are currently two postdoctoral fellows, 25 research postgraduates and 4 M.Phil. students attached to the centre. All are keyholders, entitled to use, but not borrow, the books from its library and to utilise the computers and other equipment stored there. Recent doctoral graduates, or students who are off-books but still intend to re register in the near future, cease to be key-holders, but often continue to attend the weekly seminars and sometimes read papers to their colleagues. They are welcomed as making a valuable contribution, particularly those graduates who are now holding lecturing or research positions in other third level institutions.

The Centre operates within the School of Histories and Humanities, and the Department of History. We already have connections, and will continue to network with other departments both inside our own School and in other parts of College.

Last updated 11 August 2011 History (Email).