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Digging into the Archives: Professor Roy Foster

11 March 2020 - As the Trinity Long Room Hub celebrates the 10th year since its opening on Fellows’ Square, we have asked some long-time friends, colleagues and supporters of the Hub to dig into our archives of over 400 recorded discussions and lectures and pick their top three. Here, Professor Roy Foster, Queen Mary University of London and a leading voice on Irish history and literature, gives us his top selection.

Behind the Headlines Brexit

Dominick Chilcott, former British Ambassador to Ireland; Dr Etain Tannam, Professor of International Peace Studies; Eunan O'Halpin, Professor of Contemporary Irish History; Gerald Dawe, Professor Emeritus, School of English.

Listening to the discussion on Brexit conducted on the eve of the vote, I am struck by the far-sightedness, balance and accuracy of the discussants- the then British Ambassador to Ireland Dominic Chilcott, and three Trinity professors Etain Tannam, Eunan O’Halpin and Gerald Dawe. Every sombre warning they issued has since been borne out, especially regarding the dangerous complications involved in border matters between Ireland and a United Kingdom outside the EU. It is salutary too to be reminded of the asinine claims by the then Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, that Brexit would make no difference to the Border. And it is also thought-provoking– though deeply depressing- to hear Dominic Chilcott’s sane, impartial and insightful analysis, and reflect how low the level of discourse in England has plummeted since then, with the gallery of strident, undertalented and self-promoting grotesques now dominating public life there.

The Trinity Long Room Hub’s ‘Behind the Headlines’ discussion series offers background analyses to current issues by experts drawing on the long-term perspectives of Arts & Humanities research. This series is supported by the John Pollard Foundation.


Europe’s Violent Memories ‘Instant History: 1912, 1916, 1918’

David Fitzpatrick (1948-2019), Professor of Modern History, TCD

David Fitzpatrick’s scintillating lecture on historical memory, commemoration and wishful thinking, focussing on the events of 1912, 1916 and 1918 is a poignant reminder of how much was lost to Trinity’s and Ireland’s intellectual life by his premature death. This lecture preserves his unique ability to bring a dispassionate searchlight to bear on moments in history obscured by sentiment, piety and obfuscation- while never losing the kind of empathy which made him a great historian. This lecture , surveying the Ulster Covenant and the Somme as well as the 1916 Rising and the 1918 election, is also characteristic in dealing with Ireland north and south, and restoring Ulster’s preoccupations to the centre of the picture, along with those of nationalist Ireland. It does so with the combination of erudition and mischievousness which characterised David Fitzpatrick’s historical voice, and make him so sharply missed.

Europe's Violent Memories was a three-year lecture series exploring how war, its traumas and its contested memories have proved pivotal to the formation of European identities in the 20th century. This series was supported by Dr Beate Schuler.


Annual Humanities Horizons Lecture 2013 The Humanities and Society

Professor Peter Strohschneider, former President of the German Research Foundation (DFG)

Peter Strohschneider’s lecture on the Humanities and Society is a profoundly impressive, subtle and wide-ranging demonstration of the insights which a powerful intellect can bring to fields of knowledge not formally their own. In his reflections of the epistimological frameworks of the sciences and the humanities, his analysis of the development of disciplinary categories, not to mention his ease with the mental worlds of Enzensberger, Musil , Schiller and Goethe besides his own specialism of medieval literature, Professor Strohschneider brilliantly demonstrates that, far from being an intellectual ‘relaxation’, the disciplines of the humanities are central to consciousness in the modern age. He also explores how the humanities contribute to analysing key areas of investigation such as climate change and alterations in social structures, and bracingly interrogates current ‘buzz-words’ dominating the supposed outcomes of academic work today. The idea that the humanities are ‘immediate to society’ is central to his thesis- a conclusion which, along with the interdisciplinary ease demonstrated by the lecture, makes it stand as a vivid illustration of the values and ideals epitomised by the creation and record of the Long Room Hub itself.

The Annual Humanities Horizons Lecture was established by the Trinity Long Room Hub to provide a significant contribution to reflection on and advocacy for the Arts and Humanities.


About Roy Foster

Roy FosterRoy Foster is a Professor of Irish History and Literature at Queen Mary University of London. He has been teaching Irish history and literature , first at Birkbeck College, London, and then as the first Carroll Professor of Irish History at Oxford, for many years.  He has published widely on Irish political, social and literary history. In 2015, Professor Foster delivered the Trinity Long Room Hub Annual Edmund Burke Lecture on ‘"An Inheritance From Our Forefathers"? Historians and the Memory of the Irish Revolution’. He was also a member of the initial review panel for the Trinity Long Room Hub and sat on its inaugural board.

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