Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

Making Ireland

You are here Research > Themes > Making Ireland

Understand Ireland, understand the world.

To explore, to conquer, to resist.
To nurture, to build, to create. 
To reflect, to imagine, to perform.

Multiple Irelands have been fashioned through the ages. The Making Ireland theme explores this profoundly complex inheritance in its local and global manifestations, bringing Trinity’s expertise on all things Irish to scholars across the world and to Ireland’s citizens.

Ireland is an off-shore island on Europe’s western seaboard. Its global status, according to the standard indices, is decidedly average. It lies almost exactly mid-way on a list of 246 countries in terms of land-size and population. And in terms of GDP it is placed 46th out of 90 countries in the listings of the World Bank. Yet there has long been a strong perception, especially among the Irish, that Ireland has, in the parlance of popular commentators, consistently ‘punched above its weight’.

Making Ireland works in close collaboration with the Centre for New Irish Studies (CNIS). The CNIS emerges from Trinity’s strengths in Irish Studies, particularly the strengths developed by members of the Making Ireland research theme, and the other Arts and Humanities-led research themes. The aim of the CNIS is to develop, promote and support research in New Irish Studies through partnership and engagement. More about the Centre for New Irish Studies (CNIS) here

Making Ireland Theme Events


Research Projects

Forward Together: Historic Monuments and Climate Challenges

Ireland in 2018 witnessed extensive damage to several historic monuments almost exclusively due to weather extremes. While rising sea levels destroy coastal sites, increased rainfall results in higher erosion rates, and record-breaking winds cause monumental collapses, are experts doing enough to protect the heritage, culture, and identity of Ireland?
This interdisciplinary and inter-sectorial project responds to the renewed urgency to preserve historic monuments and associated cultural identity. It convenes academics and heritage professionals to ascertain the main challenges facing historic monuments and engage them in an exploratory discussion seeking collaborative research strands in relation to climate change and heritage in Ireland.

Principal Investigator: Dr Sarah Kerr

Beyond 2022: Ireland's National Memory

On 30 June 1922 the Treasury Room containing Ireland’s documentary heritage dating back to the thirteenth century was destroyed in a cataclysmic explosion and fire at the Four Courts. On the centenary of that blaze in 2022, this project will launch a Virtual Record Treasury that reconstructs the nation’s archives and its collective memories. In partnership with the National Archives of Ireland and other national and international institutions, Beyond 2022 seeks to ensure a lasting and inspirational legacy beyond the current decade of centenaries. The centrepiece of the project is new an online resource — the Virtual Record Treasury — which will provide a digital reconstruction of the Record Treasury of the Public Record Office of Ireland as it existed in 1922, on the eve of the fire. This will become not only an essential platform for academic research but also a public resource with global reach and impact among the Irish at home and abroad.

Associated researchers are Peter Crooks, David Dickson, Shay Lawless, Micheál Ó Siochrú, and Ciarán Wallace.

Monastic Ireland: Landscape and Settlement

Funded by the Irish Research Council and in partnership with the Discovery Programme and UCC, Monastic Ireland is revealing the palimpsest of history preserved in Ireland’s rich heritage of medieval monastic ruins. Monasteries were at the core of most settlements in Ireland. This project combines cutting-edge digital survey techniques and original historical research to explore the manner in which the material remains of Ireland’s medieval monasteries have been preserved and adapted, so telling the story of community life in Ireland over the centuries.

Irish Lives in War and Revolution

In 2014 Trinity's Department of History launched Ireland’s most successful MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Irish Lives in War and Revolution: Exploring Ireland’s History 1912-1923. Over 29,000 learners have participated in the course to date, with a third run planned for March 2016.

Down Survey of Ireland

The Down Survey of Ireland in the 1650s was the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. This project has brought together for the first time in over 300 years all the surviving Down Survey maps and made them available as an open-access online resource. The public response has been incredible with over 100,000 visits to the website within weeks of the launch in 2013. With the support of the Irish Manuscripts Commission, the project has now entered its second phase to create an online research platform for the study of early modern Ireland.

National Collection of Children’s Books

The National Collection of Children’s Books (NCCB) is a unique resource uncovering a forgotten aspect of Ireland’s rich and varied cultural heritage. NCCB is the fruit of a two-year interdisciplinary and inter-institutional project funded by the Irish Research Council, which is examining children’s books collections across five libraries: the Church of Ireland College of Education, the National Library, Pearse Street Library, St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra, and Trinity. The project will establish Dublin, and Ireland, as a world centre for the study of children's literature.

Rex Ingram Website

This project celebrates the life and work of one of Hollywood’s greatest silent-era directors — the Irish exile, Rex Ingram. Best known now for The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (1921), this handsome, strong-willed visionary was responsible for a succession of films for Metro Pictures (later MGM) that topped the box office and were hailed as masterpieces by the critics. The project has reclaimed for Irish cinema one of the most successful filmmakers that Ireland has produced.

Theme Strategy

There is exceptional vitality of research activity across all the associated disciplines in the Making Ireland Theme. There is the potential for dramatically strengthening interdisciplinary activity in the area and willingness from the Making Ireland members to carry this forward. During the formal existence of the Theme it has had notable successes in encouraging new connections and collaborations between academics, senior and junior, and among postgraduates and postdoctoral researchers, across the field.  It is the overarching aim of the theme to continue this and enhance Trinity’s status as a ‘world reference point’ in the field of Irish Studies, and thereby to contribute to the university’s wider reputational aspirations. 


2018 Critical Edition (Book) A shorte view of the State and condicon of the kingdome of Ireland/The History of the Rebellion and Civil Wars in Ireland, Jane Ohlmeyer, (OUP Clarendon's works), Oxford:, OUP, 2018, -  Ohlmeyer J
2017 Book Jane Ohlmeyer, The Cambridge History of Ireland. Vol. 2. Early Modern Ireland, 1550-1730 , Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017  Ohlmeyer J
2017 Book Brian Cliff, Irish Crime Fiction: An Introduction, London, Palgrave, 2017  Cliff B
2017 Book Chapter Politics, 1641-1660 in, editor(s)Jane Ohlmeyer , The Cambridge History of Ireland, volume 2, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, [John Cunningham]  Cunningham J
2017 Book Chapter The structure of politics in theory and practice: colonial Ireland, c.1210-1541 in, editor(s)Brendan Smith , The Cambridge History of Ireland, vol. 1: Medieval Ireland, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2017, [Peter Crooks]  Crooks P
2016 Book Peter Crooks and Timothy H. Parsons (eds), Empires and bureaucracy in world history, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016  Crooks P

See more here

Our Research Clusters

Due to the rich and complex field of enquiry, we have organized the research within four thematic clusters:

  • Making Medieval and Early Modern Ireland: The historical range of the work being carried out in Irish Studies in Trinity is extensive, with the scholarly gaze extending back to the earliest evidence of human habitation on the island.

  • Making Ireland 1500-1900: The impulses behind and the impact of English colonial projects in Ireland have been central to research activity on the early modern period, many of the issues having first been mapped out by Aidan Clarke (Fellow Emeritus). The work of Ciaran Brady and his students has re-assessed the tectonic shifts in the religious and political policies of the Tudors towards Ireland, and that of Jane Ohlmeyer and Micheál Ó Siochrú has transformed the study of war and social conflict in the seventeenth century.

  • Making Modern Ireland: In the mid-1990s, the Department of History made a strategic decision to seek philanthropic and corporate funding to establish a chair in contemporary (i.e., post-1920) Irish history. Eunan O’Halpin, chair-holder and director of the Centre for Contemporary Irish History has, together with Anne Dolan and other colleagues, dramatically expanded research numbers in twentieth-century Ireland and led a number of funded research projects into Irish state-building, diplomacy and security.

  • Irish Studies and the Library: The College’s own collections, as well as its proximity to more than a dozen repositories and cultural institutions, place Trinity in a unique position to act as a world reference point for Irish Studies.
  • Making Ireland in Trinity

    The two figures who look down from their respective plinths on either side of the Front Gate to Trinity College Dublin – Oliver Goldsmith and Edmund Burke – remind everyone who enters the campus that this is not just a place where the matter of Ireland is studied; it is among the most important sites anywhere for the making of Irish culture.
    Trinity has been a formative force in Irish society for more than four centuries; it shapes and makes possible research carried out in the present.  In this respect, Irish Studies, the study of social construction that has been and is Ireland, is unlike any other area of research in the university.  Anyone who works in the field of Irish Studies anywhere in the world will be aware of Trinity because of its place in Irish history; today, that reputational weight creates a powerful field of attraction across traditional disciplinary boundaries, a centripetal force that brings to the campus researchers and faculty not just from around Ireland, but from around the world.

    Making Ireland research theme brings together the disciplines traditionally included in Irish studies, such as the Department of History, the School of English or Roinn na Gaeilge agus na dTeangacha Ceilteacha, and in more-recently established academic units, including the Department of the History of Art and Architecture, the Department of Drama and Theatre Studies (one of the pioneers of its field in Ireland), the Department of Film Studies (again, a pioneering venture), and the Departments of Geography and of Geology.   There are also key areas  – notably in the School of Education, the School of Linguistics, Speech and Communications Science, but also in surprising areas such as Civil Engineering – where there are individuals who are making significant contributions to Irish Studies and the Making Ireland theme within their own disciplinary specialism. 

    Trinity’s longstanding legacy of activity in Irish studies is the base upon which the Making Ireland theme is built. However, today’s scholars are not willing to rest on past achievements; instead, they are using the reputational value of this inheritance as the foundation for a forward-looking, collaborative research culture and one that embraces the depth and diversity of Irish history and culture.


    Ireland is painfully strained in many areas; the claim that it ‘punches above its weight’ is most plausible in regards to literature, the arts, scholarship and culture in general. Stretching back over centuries, the list of famous Irish individuals whose achievement has received global recognition hardly needs reiteration here. Softer indicators of Ireland’s exceptional cultural tradition, such as the irrepressible growth in tourism and the amiable reception of our travelling soccer supporters, reveal the uncritical notion that there is something special about the Irish among the nations of the world: ‘There are only two kinds of people in the world, runs the old joke, ‘those who are Irish, and those who wish they were Irish’. Despite the polls proclaiming Ireland to be ‘the happiest country in the world’ and the explosion of international St Patrick’s Day celebrations, there are far darker aspects of Ireland’s cultural inheritance, and far more complex problems arising for those who seek to engage with it.

    Ireland is a divided island – its geographical partition reflecting broader and deeper divisions and violently sharp conflicts – political, ideological, religious and cultural – that are the product of a millennium of its history. At the heart of that history is Ireland’s troubled and complex relationship with its powerful nearest neighbour, Britain. Of critical significance are the multiple ways in which the Irish sought to survive, to adapt to, and to manipulate the instruments of conquest – institutions, laws, ideological precepts, and language. The recurrent waves of inchoate conquest has exercised a complex and a profoundly disturbing effect on Irish identity. But, more pertinently, it has posed an acute, and multi-layered, challenge to those who have sought to study it. To track a course mid-way between directly and obliquely competing narratives has never been possible; and the fate of humanist studies has frequently been to find themselves aligned with one or another. But not always; and rarely exclusively. The force behind the extraordinary fertile work of cultural interpretation in Ireland has arisen from the need to negotiate between and within competing but inextricably linked narratives.

    The Making Ireland theme explores this profoundly complex inheritance in its local and global manifestations, bringing Trinity’s expertise on all things Irish to scholars across the world and to Ireland’s citizens. Research, writing and teaching about Irish culture has always been - and remains - richly contentious.

    Steering Committee

    A Steering Committee  has been established to oversee the research theme and guide the development and delivery of new research projects and activities related to the theme over the course of its duration:

    Dr Mark Hennessy, Theme Convener, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography
    Dr Sarah Kerr, Theme Project Officer, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, TLRH


    Dr Ruth Barton, Associate Professor in Film Studies and Drama, School of Creative Arts
    Professor Christine Casey, Professor in Architectural History, Department of History of Art and Architecture
    Dr Peter Crooks, Assistant Professor in Medieval History, School of Histories and Humanities
    Professor David Dickson, Professor of Modern History, School of Histories and Humanities
    Dr Oran Doyle, Associate Professor of Law, School of Law
    Professor Patrick Geoghegan, Professor in Modern History, School of Histories and Humanities
    Dr Sarah Hamill, Assistant Professor of Law, School of Law
    Dr Rosie Lavan, Assistant Professor of Irish Studies, Literary Arts Officer, School of English
    Dr Séamus Lawless, Assistant Professor in Intelligent Systems, School of Computer Science and Statistics
    Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith's Professor of Modern History, Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub, Arts & Humanities Research Institute
    Prof Ciaran O’Neill, School of Histories and Humanities
    Professor Micheál Ó Siochrú, Head of Department, School of Histories and Humanities
    Christopher Pastore, Co-fund Fellow, TLRH
    Dr Melissa Sihra, Assistant Professor, Drama, School of Creative Arts
    Dr Sam Slote, Associate Professor, Director of Research, School of English
    Dr James Smith, IRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Geography
    Dr Ciarán Wallace, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Histories and Humanities

    Student Representative
    Emer Emily Neenan, PhD Scholar in GeoScience Education, TLRH


    For queries or further information on the 'Making Ireland' research theme at Trinity College Dublin, please email the theme convener:

    Dr Mark Hennessy
    Assistant Professor, Department of Geography

    Support Trinity Long Room Hub

    Click Here