I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow on the Leverhulme-funded project ‘Rethinking Civil Society: History, Theory, Critique’. I hold a First Class Honours Degree (2010); MSc. by Research (2011); and PhD (2016), all in History and all from the University of Edinburgh. Between September 2014 and May 2015, I was a tutor for the core undergraduate course at Edinburgh ‘British History 1: 1603–2000’. On completing my PhD I worked as a humble shelving assistant in the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library, frequently to be found ‘shelving’ in the history section. Following a successful PhD and Early Career Workshop I co-organised in Edinburgh in September 2017, I became co-editor of the Writing the Troubles. This blog provides a safe space for authors to reflect critically on the challenging methodological and theoretical issues raised when writing the contested history of Northern Ireland.
Hitherto, my postgraduate research has explored the influence of history – Irish and otherwise, ancient and modern – upon the influential strands of political thought exhibited by the key architects of the Northern Ireland Peace Process: Gerry Adams, Tony Blair, John Hume, Ian Paisley and David Trimble. I have sought to demonstrate how ideas of history – so commonly depicted as somehow to blame for precipitating and sustaining violence upon the island – informed the consensual ideologies forged by these individuals. I have published an article on the intellectual influence of Hume’s studies in Modern History at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, the National Roman Catholic Seminary of Ireland, during the mid-1950s, in the Historical Journal and I am revising my doctoral thesis for publication.
My fellowship at York is focused upon ideas of civil society within twentieth-century Catholic thought. As part of this, I am exploring the intellectual origins and influence of a discourse of what might be termed ‘civic patriotism’ that emerged amongst Ireland’s Catholic intelligentsia in the run-up to the convening of the Second Vatican Council in 1962. Articulated by influential clerics and politicians, this emphasised the necessity of undramatic toil on the social and economic planes, as opposed to radical constitutional change (i.e. the undoing of the partition of the island) so as to generate true national unity and prosperity. At the beginning of the 1870s, Pope Pius IX became the self-styled ‘prisoner of the Vatican’. I am increasingly interested in the conceptual influence exerted by, and the ultimate shedding of, the Catholic ‘siege mentality’ throughout the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. I am currently co-editing with Dr Andrew Phemister (NUI Galway) of a special edition of the Journal of the History of European Ideas exploring the theme of ‘Religion and the Irish Imagination’. This will feature an article in which I use St. Patrick – once held captive in Ireland – as a conceptual via which to explore visions of the island; of imprisonment; and of imperialism within the Irish political imagination.
I am interested, above all, in conceptually-driven and comparative approaches to the study of history and thought.
Co-editor, with Roseanna Doughty (UoE) and James Bright (UoE), of Writing the Troubles