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Making Empire Launch


Making Empire Launch

Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, from Trinity’s School of Histories and Humanities, launched her new book Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, & The Early Modern World (Oxford University Press) in the Long Room Library at Trinity College Dublin on 21 November, 2023.

Professor Micheal O’Siochru, Professor of Modern History at TCD presided over the launch and Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science gave a very full and insightful overview of Making Empire and spoke its importance for better understanding our shared history in Ireland. 

Making Empire examines the unique position of early modern Ireland in the First English Empire, c. 1550–c. 1770s. Ireland was England’s oldest colony. How then did the English empire function in early modern Ireland, and how did this change over time? What did access to European empires mean for people living in Ireland? This book answers these questions by interrogating four interconnected themes. First, that Ireland formed an integral part of the English imperial system. Second, that the Irish operated as agents of empire(s). Third, Ireland served as a laboratory in and for the English empire. Finally, it examines the impact that empire(s) had on people living in early modern Ireland. Whilst the book focuses on Ireland’s place in the English empire, the Irish were trans-imperial and engaged with all of the early modern imperial powers. 

Making Empires therefore explores connections and comparisons with other European imperial powers, placing the Irish colonial experience in a global context. Making Empire is based on the 2021 James Ford Lectures (especially Lecture 3), the most prestigious public lecture series hosted by the Faculty of History at the University of Oxford. Jane was the first Irish historian to be invited to give the Ford Lectures since 1977, and only the 11th woman since the inception of the series. (https://www.rte.ie/history/2021/0304/1201023-ireland-empire-and-the-early-modern-world-watch-the-lectures/)

In a review of the book in the Irish Times Christopher Kissane described Jane Ohlmeyer as ‘one of the most influential Irish historians of this century’.  He concluded his insightful review by suggesting ‘That is a complex history that we are still unravelling, and Ohlmeyer’s important work will, hopefully, force us to ask questions we have perhaps too long avoided. In an age of Brexit, decolonisation and renewed debates about Irish unity, such reflection is vital. Ohlmeyer recalls the words of the late Ian Paisley at the launch of the 1641 project’s exhibition at Trinity: to learn our complicated history “is to know who we are”’ (Irish Times, 11 November 2023)

The VOICES ERC (voicesproject.ie) which started in September 2023, of which Professor Ohlmeyer is also Principal Investigator (PI) will extend the work of Chapter 3 on Assimilation. Together with Professor Declan O’Sullivan, PI at the ADAPT Centre, will combine pioneering digital approaches with historical scholarship to place data from a digital windfall (including the 1641 Depositions and Statute Staple records and well as the Virtual Treasury) into a Knowledge Graph to transform this unstructured data into knowledge that can be interrogated and visualised.

Harnessing the knowledge produced using the Knowledge Graph will revolutionise our understanding of the history of women in early modern Ireland. Ordinary women are not absent from the story of early modern Ireland. Instead, they have been hiding in plain sight. VOICES will recover their lived experiences and offer a new narrative which places women’s perspectives at the centre of Irish history.