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VOICES: Life and Death, War and Peace, c.1550-c.1700: Voices of Women in Early Modern Ireland

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VOICES is a five-year European Research Council advanced grant project. It commenced in September 2023 and will be based in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute.

Advanced Grants are the most competitive of the ERC awards, supporting exceptional leaders in terms of originality and significance of their research contributions.


VOICES seeks to interrogate a rich historical record held in Trinity’s Manuscripts & Archives collection through the creative use of technology shedding new light on an important, but until now, overlooked part of our history.

Ordinary women are not absent from early modern history. Instead, they have been hiding in plain sight. VOICES will recover their lived experiences and offer a new narrative that answers two ambitious questions.

First: what roles did women play in a society undergoing profound economic, political, and cultural transformation?

Second: what were their experiences of recurring social upheaval, bloody civil war and extreme trauma, especially sexual violence, and how have these been politicised?

The overarching hypothesis contends that non-elite early modern women used periods of intense warfare, when all cultural norms were suspended, to negotiate their role and in some instances to improve their position. In other words, warfare exposed the inner workings of a society and made visible women who were previously hidden. This hypothesis will be interrogated through four case studies that focus on female agency, women’s roles in the household, their labour, their landholding, their networks, and their lived experiences of war.

Focusing on Ireland and non-elite women VOICES’s novel approach derives in large part from the interrogation of a ‘digital windfall’ of early modern historical data – cartographic, qualitative, and quantitative – which was previously inaccessible. It is unprecedented in its scale and the level of detail it offers about the lived experiences of non-elite women during times of peace and of war. The methodology ¬– based on innovative technologies for historical analysis – has the potential to be replicated in other time periods and locations. In short, VOICES will allow us, using the life and death experiences of women in early modern Ireland, to chart pathways for historical research that are currently unachievable.

Principal Investigator: Prof. Jane Ohlmeyer

Award Number: 101097003

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