Jane Ohlmeyer wins prestigious European Research Council Advanced Grant
Posted on: 30 March 2023
Professor Jane Ohlmeyer of Trinity’s School of Histories and Humanities has won a highly prestigious European Research Council (ERC) Advanced grant valued at €2.5 million.
The Advanced Grant funding is for a five-year project which will recover the lived experiences of women in early modern Ireland. The project is entitled “VOICES: Life and Death, War and Peace, c.1550-c.1700: Voices of Women in Early Modern Ireland”.
Advanced Grants are the most competitive of the ERC awards, supporting exceptional leaders in terms of originality and significance of their research contributions.
These grants, which support established research leaders in taking their research in a radically new direction, fund teams of researchers for up to five years and are among the most sought-after in the world of research.
VOICES will investigate two key questions — what roles did women play in a society undergoing profound economic, political, and cultural transformation; and what were their experiences of recurring social upheaval, bloody civil war and extreme trauma, especially sexual violence, and how have these been politicised?
Exploiting previously inaccessible historical data, now available digitally, the project will employ innovative technologies to transform the data into knowledge that can be interrogated and visualised. In doing this the project will work closely with senior staff and researchers based at ADAPT, the world leading SFI Research Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology headquartered at Trinity.
Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History, said:
“It is an incredible honour to receive this prestigious ERC award for my VOICES project. This funding will help to recover the lived experiences of ordinary women from Early Modern Ireland and offer new narratives that have been hidden until now. I’m particularly excited to unearth these untold stories and move away from a predominantly elitist perspective of history.
“I am also energised by the opportunity to employ innovative technologies for historical analysis which will chart a new path for historical research using interdisciplinary methods. I want to thank everyone who has helped with this process and all my colleagues, family and friends who have supported me through the application stage. I also want to acknowledge my appreciation to the ERC council itself for its commitment to funding excellent curiosity-led research in all disciplines including the arts and humanities”.
This major achievement comes close on the heels of Ohlmeyer’s recently awarded 2023 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in the Humanities, which is awarded to individuals who have made a demonstrable and internationally recognised outstanding scholarly contribution in their fields.
Congratulating Professor Ohlmeyer, Dr Linda Doyle, Provost of Trinity said:
“This ERC Advanced Grant is a fitting recognition of Jane’s outstanding and innovative approach to her field of research.
“The VOICES project typifies the cutting-edge work being led by Arts & Humanities researchers at Trinity. It 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.”
Prof Ohlmeyer’s ERC award brings the total funding secured by Trinity researchers under the 2022 ERC funding calendar to €9m, joining four ERC Starting Grant awardees, two ERC Consolidator Grant awardees, and three ERC Proof of Concept Awardees. Since the inception of the ERC programme, over 50 ERC Starting, Consolidator, Advanced and Synergy grants have been won by Trinity researchers across all three Faculties and 18 Schools.
Professor Sinead Ryan, Trinity’s Dean of Research, added:
“I am very pleased to congratulate Jane on receiving this well-deserved ERC Advanced Grant Award. VOICES is an innovative project that harnesses Jane’s skills as a historian together with new technologies to shed light on untold stories of family, memory, and trauma.
“It is particularly significant that a project so strongly focussed on Irish history, specifically the experiences of women in early modern Ireland, has been funded at an international level. This demonstrates the potential of projects like this to help develop better understanding of gender relations and violence, and could lead to new insights in other fields of historical research as well as for society today."
The VOICES project will commence in September 2023 and will be based in the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Institute. The team Prof Ohlmeyer will recruit will join over 200 PhD students, postdoctoral fellows, research assistants, lab managers, technicians and other team members funded through ERC projects working at Trinity.
More about Prof Ohlmeyer’s Voices of Women in Early Modern Ireland project.
VOICES: Life and Death, War and Peace, c.1550-c.1700: Voices of Women in Early Modern Ireland
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.