Ireland, Empire and the Early Modern World: this year's Ford Lectures to start on Friday

Irish historian, Jane Ohlmeyer, to present Oxford University’s prestigious James Ford Lecture series this year

Ireland, Empire, and the Early Modern World starts Friday 22 January 5pm

Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith's Professor of Modern History at Trinity College Dublin, will this year deliver the James Ford Lectures, considered to be the most prestigious history lecture series in the UK. 

Over six weeks Professor Ohlmeyer will explore the following themes:

  • "How the Irish were "both victims and agents of empire."
  • "Ireland’s role in imperialism in American and in India."
  • "What Irish indentured servitude in the seventeenth-century Caribbean really meant.|
  • "The Irish as soldiers, clergymen, and traders; and how empire shaped Irish lives."

Due to the pandemic, for the first time in their history, the lectures will be delivered exclusively online and available to a worldwide audience. The full series can be found here, and the first lecture will be held at 5pm on Friday 22 January.

Since 1896, the Ford Lectures in British History have provided a showcase for distinguished scholars to present their work to an Oxford audience, in a scholarly but accessible way. Each year a leading historian in their field is invited to Oxford University to tackle some of the biggest historical challenges over six weeks.

It is over 40 years since an historian based at a university in Ireland has received the invitation from Oxford. The last person from a university in Ireland to give these prestigious lectures was F.S.L. Lyons in 1977, when he was the Provost of Trinity College Dublin. 

Professor Jane Ohlmeyer said: “I am honoured to be delivering the Ford Lectures with Oxford University in 2021 and to receive the invite from their Faculty of History where so many esteemed historians have gone before me. What excites me most is to be able to take the audience with me on a journey through Ireland and empire, an area which has taken up my life’s work as a historian.

“For many like me who grew up in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Irish history had a very tangible impact on our lives, but Ireland’s imperial past has too often been forgotten or deliberately ignored. In an era of Brexit, ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Rhodes must fall’, it is more important than ever that we understand its complicated legacy and how it has shaped our present.”

Professor Steven Gunn of Oxford's History Faculty and Merton College, Oxford is chair of the board of electors to Ford’s Lectureship. He said: “The present moment of dramatic change in Britain’s relationships with Ireland, Europe and the World is particularly apt for consideration of Professor Ohlmeyer’s theme. We are grateful for all her efforts to make the lectures available amid drastic and rapidly-changing constraints and we await them with pleasure and excitement.”

Erasmus Smith's Professor of Modern History (1762) at Trinity College Dublin, and the Chair of the Irish Research Council, Jane Ohlmeyer has been described as one of the most inspirational historians working on Irish and imperial history.  A brilliant communicator, she has been a pioneer in digital humanities over the past two decades and has been acclaimed for the way she has used new technologies to make scholarship accessible to all.

The author or editor of numerous articles and 11 books, she was the editor of Volume 2 of The Cambridge History of Ireland which was launched by President Michael D. Higgins in Ireland and by President-Elect Joseph Biden in the United States. Her latest book is a ground-breaking new edition of Edward Hyde, earl of Clarendon’s A Short View of the State and Condition of the Kingdom of Ireland … (Oxford, 2020).  

Find out more about her work here.