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Trinity College Dublin

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Prof. David Dickson
Dr. Deana Heath
Dr. Christopher Shepard
Justyna Pyz

Centre for Irish, Scottish and Comparative Studies,
Department of History,
Trinity College,
Dublin 2,


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From the 1840s Irish Universities including the Queen’s University in Ireland, Trinity College Dublin, the Royal College of Surgeons and the rapidly expanding Roman Catholic diocesan colleges began to play a significant role in shaping imperial and colonial processes, a role they continued to play until the second quarter of the twentieth century.

By the mid-nineteenth century Trinity, for example, offered classes not only in classical languages such as Persian, Arabic and Sanskrit, but numerous regional languages (such as Hindustani, Telegu, and Gujarati), not to mention courses in Indian law and history. These and similar areas of study were soon developed at other Irish institutions including the constituent colleges of the Queen’s University in Ireland at Belfast, Cork and Galway. These institutions soon adapted their curricula to meet the needs of the British Empire in areas of study ranging from engineering to medicine.

The response to these programmes in Ireland was tremendous. Irish graduates went on to play a prominent role in carrying out the Indian Geological Survey and the development of India’s railways, and in medicine they came to dominate the Indian Medical Service. Hundreds of Irish graduates, many of whom had trained at Trinity’s Indian Civil Service School, also went on to enter the Indian Civil Service. Mission-oriented seminaries and colleges of the churches likewise developed programmes to prepare their graduates for service in the Empire.

Based in the Centre for Irish Scottish and Comparative Studies, the ‘Ireland, Education and Empire’ Project was established, with the support of the IRCHSS and the Trinity Long Room Hub, to examine the complex relationships which developed between Irish universities and higher educational institutes and British Empire, 1840-1940. This project draws on the existing interests of staff in the School of Histories and Humanities and collaborators in NUI Galway and Queen’s University Belfast.
The project collaborates closely with the Trinity College Library, a major international research library. As a copyright library for British and Irish publications since 1801, it is a major repository of British as well as Irish materials relating to the British Empire. The collection is international in scope, boasting Asian (Chinese and Indian) and European imprints and covering diverse subjects, ranging from natural history and linguistics. Among its manuscript holdings are the records of the Trinity College School of Medicine, School of Civil Engineering and Civil Service Training School, which prepared a large proportion of Irish graduates for civil service, medical and public works careers throughout the British Empire.

Contact: Pat Carty Last updated: Mar 25 2011.