Annual Lectures

Each year we have an annual lecture, and since 2010 these have generally been held online or at the National Library of Ireland. Below is a list of our most recent annual lectures, which reflects the interdisciplinary nature of SSNCI.


‘Gothic: Undead Irish-American histories’

Prof. Mary Burke (University of Connecticut) 7pm (Irish time) Wednesday 13 March 2024

Prof. Burke’s lecture will be broadcast via Zoom. Click here to book a (free) ticket.

The Irish ‘whitened’ multiple times in the Americas, as conveyed by literature and by figures from Andrew Jackson to Grace Kelly. This lecture on representations of Irishness in the slave-holding Caribbean, on America’s frontiers and antebellum plantations, and in its nineteenth-century northeast examines the forcibly transported Irish, Ulster Presbyterians, and post-Famine immigrants. It traces the successive racialized coinages (‘Redlegs’; ‘Scots-Irish’; ‘black Irish’) as well as subsequent striving to leave ‘flawed’ whiteness behind of such Irish cohorts.

In portrayals of conflicted nineteenth-century Irish America by Mitchell, Fitzgerald, O’Neill, and Yerby (an African American writer of Scots-Irish heritage), the Irish are both colluders and victims within America’s racial order. Depictions negotiate evolving Irish relations with peoples of colour as well as ‘Saxon’ (Scots-Irish) and ‘Celtic’ (Famine Irish) competition for position in America’s hierarchy of S‘whitenesses.’ For the Jackson and Kennedy generations, the presidency bolstered Scots-Irish and Famine Irish ‘whitening,’ respectively. However, although these presidents are foregrounded, attention to Irish-American queer and multiracial authors, public women, and performers (including the Caribbean-Irish Rihanna) expands standard assimilation narratives. For instance, Grace Kelly’s globally-broadcast ascent to royalty paved the way for final full assimilation and thus for ‘America’s royals,’ the Kennedys (also of Famine-era origin).

Social realist fiction incompletely conveys how the past haunts Irish America. Gothic literature’s stress on the returns of traumatic history better conveys the unprocessed injustices that attaining power (whiteness) entail. Thus, subgenres named ‘Jacksonian Gothic’ and ‘Kennedy Gothic’ are particularly highlighted. In Gothic texts in which Jackson hovers by Poe, James, Faulkner, and Welty, the inequities of disordered colonial Ireland are repeated upon Americans of colour. Additionally, ‘America’s royals’ are framed within Gothic vocabularies of conspiracy and curse. History is Gothic in Irish-American narrative because the undead Irish past replays within US racial contexts.

BIO: Mary Burke, University of Connecticut Professor of English, is the author of Race, Politics, and Irish-America: A Gothic History (OUP, 2023), and collaborated with Tramp Press on the 2022 edition of Traveller-Romany Juanita Casey’s Horse of Selene. Her public-facing work has placed with NPR, the Irish Times, RTÉ, and Faber. A former NEH Fellow at the University of Notre Dame, she was a 2022 LRH Fellow at TCD.


‘The Sharman Crawfords of Crawfordsburn: the rise and fall of an Ulster radical dynasty, 1780-1934’

Prof. Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast) 6:30pm Tuesday 28 February 2023.

For the best part of a century between the Dungannon Conventions of 1782-3 and the first Home Rule crisis, members of the Sharman, Crawford and then Sharman Crawford family were never far from the forefront of radical and then liberal politics in Ulster. Over three generations members of the family self-consciously maintained a radical reforming tradition and sought to adapt it to the shifting political conditions of their time. This lecture considers what this tradition constituted, how it engaged with the changing popular politics of the period and why it ultimately disintegrated in the generation that inherited the family name from the 1890s. Gentlemanly radicalism was a not uncommon phenomenon in Irish and British politics in the ‘age of reform’, but proved difficult to sustain over generations given the gravitational pull of gentry status and class preoccupations. The Crawfordsburn family were thus unusual in transitioning from the radical Volunteering politics of both William Sharman and John Crawford in the 1780s-early 1790s, through the democratic, Chartist and tenant right campaigns of William Sharman Crawford in the 1830s-50s, to the Gladstonian liberalism of his son James in the 1870s and pioneering feminism of his daughter Mabel through her long life to 1912. Although reversion to a conservative landed Unionist position ultimately came with the succession of Robert Gordon Sharman Crawford to the family estates from 1891, contestations for the legacy of William Sharman Crawford continued into the early twentieth century as elements of more radical Presbyterian politics continued to challenge the dominance of the Unionist elite. This lecture seeks to recover this strand of northern Protestant radicalism over the long nineteenth century, and relate it to political developments beyond Ulster in Ireland, industrial Britain and the empire.

Prof. Gray’s lecture will be held in person at the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute, Trinity College Dublin, with a live broadcast via Zoom. Click here to book a (free) ticket.


‘Possessing Ireland: George Petrie and the Translation of Landscape’

Dr. Elizabeth Tilley (National University of Ireland Galway) 7pm Thursday 27 January 2022.

Irish artist George Petrie (1790-1866), painter, antiquarian, folklore collector, founder and co-editor of the Dublin Penny Journal and editor of the Irish Penny Journal, was in high demand at the beginning of the nineteenth century as an accomplished illustrator of Ireland’s urban and rural environment.

Petrie was trained as a landscape painter, but he adapted the style and formal elements of landscape painting in order to express a sense of cultural difference. The views he produced are ones that insist on the central importance of symbolic structures: architecture, land forms, human figures. ‘Visual possession’ of these physical aspects of Ireland was offered to a wide audience through the circulation of images as high art, as steel or copper engravings, and as wood-engraved illustrations in the penny press.

This lecture will discuss Petrie’s translations of media, reflecting his belief in the necessity for the visual preservation and wide ownership of a fast-disappearing landscape.

Image caption: Edward Goodall, engraving after George Petrie, Dublin, From Phoenix Park, c. 1829, from G.N. Wright, Ireland Illustrated, London, Fisher, Son & Co., 1829-1831.

Dr. Tilley’s lecture will be broadcast via Zoom. Click here to book a (free) ticket.


‘Searching for a “normal” Irish person: metrics and race in nineteenth-century Ireland’

Dr. Ciaran O’Neill (Trinity College Dublin) 7pm Tuesday 19 January 2021.

Ireland played a surprisingly central role in the evolution of physical anthropology: a field that quickly became focused on connecting racial and criminal ‘degeneracy’ under the guise of a scientific search for the ‘normal,’ ‘average’, or ‘typical’ example of any given ethnic or social group. This exploratory paper will trace the evolution of the field in Ireland through the nineteenth century and question what the search for a ‘normal’ or ‘average’ Irish person was really about.

Dr. O’Neill’s lecture will be broadcast via Zoom. Click here to book a (free) ticket.


‘Pray for the donor: Money and the Irish Catholic Church, 1850-1921’
Dr. Sarah Roddy (University of Manchester) 6pm Wednesday 22 January 2020.


‘Maria Edgeworth and the late Scottish Enlightenment:correspondence and community’
Dr. Jane Rendall (University of York) 6pm Wednesday 16 January 2019.


‘Agrarian Secret Societies and the Land War in late Nineteenth-Century Ireland’
Dr. Laurence M. Geary (University College Cork)


‘Tracking “Bad Bridget”: Criminal and Deviant Irish Women in North America, 1838-1918’
Dr Leanne McCormick (University of Ulster)


‘Powers of Redemption: The Irish Famine as a Crisis of Governmentality’
Dr David Nally, School of Geography, University of Cambridge


‘Maria Edgeworth on the Holyhead Road’
Professor Claire Connolly, Head, School of English, University College Cork

‘Rethinking the language shift in nineteenth cenury Ireland’
Dr Niall Ó Ciosáin, Senior Lecturer, Department of History, NUI Galway

‘Landlord-tenant relations on the duke of Leinster’s estate, c.1838-1903: social memory and reality’
Professor Terence Dooley, Director of the Centre for the Study of Historic Irish Houses and Estates and Senior Lecturer, Department of History, NUI Maynooth

‘When the best British sculptors were Irishmen’
Dr Paula Murphy, School of Art History and Cultural Policy, University College Dublin

‘John Henry Newman and the bonfire of the humanities’
Professor Declan Kiberd, Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame

‘Politics and the Writing of History in 19th-Century Ireland’
Professor Paul Bew, Professor of Politics, Queen’s University Belfast (held at Queen’s University Belfast, 13 March 2008)

‘Captain Rock: The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821-24’
Professor James S. Donnelly, Jr., Professor (Emeritus) of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison (held at NUI Galway, 13 December 2006)

‘Changing perspective on the nineteenth-century Irish diaspora’
Professor J. J. Lee, Glucksman Chair of Irish History, NYU, (held at UCC, 14 January 2004)

‘After the Burning of Bridget Cleary’  
Professor Angela Bourke, Professor (Emeritus) of Irish Language Studies, UCD, (held at Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Foster Place, Dublin 2, 1 March 2000)

‘Ireland under the Union: towards a balance sheet’ ’  
Professor Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, Professor (Emeritus) of History, NUIG, (held at Bank of Ireland Arts Centre, Dublin, 4 March 1999)