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Digging into the Archives: Catriona Crowe

13 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. This month, Catriona Crowe MRIA, and Former Senior Archivist at the National Archives of Ireland, gives us her top pick.

Annual Edmund Burke Lecture 2017 Professor Margaret MacMillan

Sometimes it Matters Who is in Power - Margaret MacMillan, Professor of International History at the University of Oxford and the former Warden of St. Antony's College.

With her customary accessible eloquence, MacMillan, the great historian of twentieth century international relations, proposes that while great forces propel history, certain leaders at certain times make crucial differences to how events proceed. Common sense, of course, but for quite a while, the “great (or bad) man” theory of history was deeply unfashionable, and certain very large babies got thrown out with the revisionist bathwater. MacMillan takes us through a number of people wielding different kinds of power: Napoleon’s transformation of the Revolution which produced him, Martin Luther’s doctrinal inflexibility, Karl Marx’s predictive and prophetic gifts, Lenin’s ruthlessness, Hitler’s war hunger, and Stalin’s grim pursuit of ideology at the expense of all else. If they had been different people, certain mostly cataclysmic events would not have happened, or not happened when they did. She ends with a troubled look at Donald Trump, who had then not yet entered into the full carnage of his reign, so vividly on display today.

The Trinity Long Room Hub’s Annual Edmund Burke Lecture is delivered by a leading public intellectual of our time on a topic that engages with the challenges facing us today, marking the university's deep connection to Edmund Burke's life and work. This series is supported by a generous endownment in honour of Padraic Fallon by his family.


Writing and Politcs Fintan O’Toole

Fintan O’ Toole, columnist with the Irish Times, visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University and former drama critic and literary adviser to the Abbey Theatre.

Fintan O’Toole brings us through his extensive reflections on how imaginative writing intersects with politics, and vice versa. He takes us from O’Casey’s versions of the new, shaky and turbulent Irish state, to the countercultural energy of Edna O’Brien and John McGahern, to the great flowering of Irish drama in the 1970s and 1980s, when people like Murphy, Friel, Keane and Leonard exposed us to the internal dramas and psychological realities of Irish society. He looks at the dangers of politics imitating art: “The energy of invention in art becomes the energy of lying in politics.” And there is a characteristic Fintanesque list of the qualities in imaginative writing that sustain a civilised democratic society:

  • Cliché, which it exposes and explodes to revitalise language;
  • Conflict, which writing allows us to explore in a non-lethal environment;
  • Compassion, which allows us to see things through the eyes of others;
  • Complexity, an understanding of which is essential for the health of a thriving democracy.

This is an intelligent, passionate defence of the essential place of art in a civilised society.

Fintan O'Toole's lecture was held in the Trinity Long Room Hub in association with the School of English in advance of his honoary degree award from Trinity College Dublin in December 2020.


Out of the Ashes ‘All that remained’—The Four Courts Blaze of 1922

Catriona Crowe MRIA, Former Senior Archivist, National Archives of Ireland; Zoe Reid, Senior Conservator, National Archives of Ireland; and Lar Joye, Port Heritage Director at Dublin Port and Chair of the Irish National Committee of the Blue Shield.

I choose this event with some trepidation, since I myself was part of the panel discussing the destruction of the Public Record Office in the Four Courts in 1922, with the resulting loss of 800 years of Irish administrative, ecclesiastical, judicial and demographic archives. The conservation of archives which survived the fire was discussed by the expert Senior Conservator at the National Archives, Zoe Reid, and Lar Joye, Chair of the Irish National Committee of the Blue Shield, the voluntary international organisation with a mission to prevent cultural calamities and to help in their aftermaths. Between us, we told of the destruction of 1922 and the long recovery from it, the painstaking conservation work required to deal with paper and vellum which had been through the inferno, and the important work of Blue Shield International in helping to protect heritage from conflict and disaster. What was truly amazing about the evening was the size and enthusiasm of the audience. I have never seen so many people assembled for an archival event. Thanks to The Long Room Hub and Peter Crooks of Beyond 2022.

This discussion formed part of Out of the Ashes: Collective Memory, Cultural Loss and Recovery, a three year lecture series, exploring the theme of cultural loss and recovery across the centuries. The Out of the Ashes lecture series is generously supported by Sean and Sarah Reynolds.


About Catriona Crowe

Catriona Crowe is former Head of Special Projects at the National Archives of Ireland. She was Manager of the Census Online Project, which placed the Irish 1901 and 1911 censuses online free to access. She is editor of Dublin 1911, published by the Royal Irish Academy in late 2011. She presented the RTE documentaries "Ireland before the Rising", shown in February 2016, and "Life After the Rising", shown in January 1919.She is Chairperson of the Irish Theatre Institute, which promotes and supports Irish theatre and has created an award-winning website of Irish theatre productions. She is an Honorary President of the Irish Labour History Society and a former President of the Women’s History Association of Ireland. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy.

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