The Beckett Lecture – Prof. Ian McBride, ‘The Penal Times: The Catholic Church in Eighteenth-Century Ireland’

The 2018 J.C. Beckett Memorial Lecture will be given by Professor Ian McBride, Foster Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford, on Thursday 24 May 2018, in the Seminar Room, PRONI, at 7pm

Preceded by a Wine Reception at 6.15pm in the foyer of PRONI

This is a public lecture, open to all.

Observations on Popery

The persecution suffered by Irish Catholics during the ‘Penal Times’ ranks alongside the Great Famine and the Easter Rising as one of the central components of the Irish national story. Following the final defeat of the Catholic nobility and gentry by William III’s forces in 1689-91, the Protestant ruling class embarked upon a great experiment: to legislate the religion of an entire people out of existence.

Remarkably, however, there is no systematic study of how the eighteenth-century penal code was implemented, or how it reshaped Catholic Ireland. The most obvious explanation for this silence is that the maintenance of a underground church in defiance of the state did not facilitate the keeping of regular records. To find solutions to this problem, historians must travel to Rome, where they will discover exceptionally rich archives never properly exploited by Irish scholars. Thousands of letters from Ireland survive in the Vatican, in Propaganda Fide, and the Irish colleges. They enable us to understand how the Irish priesthood survived, and they offer rare glimpses of the religious experiences of ordinary people. More surprisingly, they reveal how the Roman authorities and their allies in the continental colleges sought to reform a national church that they sometimes regarded with hostility and despair.

Audio Track


Timothy McMahon: ‘Beyond the Boundary Commission: Partitioned Identities in Modern Ireland’

A free USIHS Lecture: Thursday 19 April 2018 at 7.00pm

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, Seminar Room

Listen again to Tim McMahon:


Prof Tim McMahon is associate professor of history at Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  He is a social historian whose research looks at national identity, imperialism, and popular culture in modern Ireland and Britain.  He is the author of Grand Opportunity: The Gaelic Revival and Irish Society, 1893-1910 (Syracuse, 2008) and editor of the memoir Pádraig Ó Fathaigh’s War of Independence: Recollections of a Galway Gaelic Leaguer (Cork, 2000), and he has published articles and book reviews in a variety of scholarly journals. He has recently co-edited a collection of essays entitled Ireland in an Imperial World (London, 2017) and writing a monograph tentatively entitled Éire Imperator: Ireland’s Imperial Ambivalence that interrogates the efforts of Irish men and women to build and manage the British Empire while others worked to undermine it.

This talk is based on new research relating to the Irish border. It draws upon testimonies and submissions to the 1920s Boundary Commission to test out some of Rogers Brubaker’s theoretical approaches to identity formation, most especially from his book Ethnicity without Groups.

This is a public event, open to all.

Sarah Roddy: ‘Pennies to Heaven? The Meaning of Money in the Irish Catholic Church, 1850-1921’

22 March 2018, at 6.30pm – QUB Irish Studies Seminar Room, 8 Fitzwilliam St, Belfast


Dr Sarah Roddy on ‘Pennies to Heaven? The Meaning of Money in the Irish Catholic Church, 1850-1921’.

Dr Roddy is Lecturer in Modern Irish History at the University of Manchester. The lecture draws upon her research on Irish Catholic fundraising, 1850-1921, a project funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

All welcome!


USIHS Lecture: Dr Patrick Little

The Irish and Scottish elections under the Cromwellian Protectorate: a British problem? Dr Patrick Little (The History of Parliament) Thursday, 16 November 2017, 6.30pm

Listen to the audio track below

Oliver Cromwell / Karikatur - Oliver Cromwell / Caricature -
1EN-26-G1653 (132091) ‘Auflösung des langen Parlaments durch Oliver Cromwell am 20. April 1653’ Cromwell, Oliver; engl. Staatsmann u. Heerführer; 1599-1658. – ‘Auflösung des langen Parlaments durch Oliver Cromwell am 20. April 1653’. – Niederländische Karikatur, zeitgen. Kupferstich. E: ‘Dissolution of the long Parliament by Oliver Cromwell on 20th April 1653’ Cromwell, Oliver; English statesman and general; 1599-1658. ‘Dissolution of the long Parliament by Oliver Cromwell on 20th April 1653’. Netherlandish caricature, contemporary. Engraving.

Listen to the Audio Track

JC Beckett Memorial Lecture 2017: Prof. Alan Ford (University of Nottingham)

Pope Leo X as antichrist_0

‘From antichrist to ARCIC: Protestant attitudes to Catholicism, 1517-2017’

Thursday, 25 May 2017, 6.30pm

Public Record Office of Northern Ireland

2 Titanic Boulevard, Belfast

More info from the secretary, Prof. Peter Gray ( or visit