Ian McBride joined Hertford in 2016 as the Foster Professor of Irish History. The Foster chair is the only endowed chair of Irish History in Britain, and is attached to Hertford, the Oxford college with the strongest Irish associations.
Professor McBride has broad interests in Ireland between the seventeenth and twenty-first centuries, especially its politics, culture and intellectual life. The subjects of his recent publications and public lectures include Catholic Ireland under the Penal Laws, the political writings of Jonathan Swift, attitudes to slavery in eighteenth-century Ireland, the partition of Ireland, and the peace process of the 1990s. Some of these public lectures are available on YouTube.
Professor McBride grew up in County Armagh, and his interest in History flowed naturally from the political instability and intensity of Northern Ireland in the late twentieth century. He was educated at Jesus College, Oxford and University College London, and was awarded a research fellowship at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge (1993-96). Between 2000 and 2016 he taught at King’s College London.
His books include The Siege of Derry in Ulster Protestant Mythology (1997) and Scripture Politics: Ulster Presbyterians and Irish Radicalism in the Late Eighteenth Century (1998), both short-listed for the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary Prize; and Eighteenth-Century Ireland: The Isle of Slaves (2009), a ‘book of the year’ in History Today and the Spectator. In 2001 he edited the pioneering collection of essays, History and Memory in Modern Ireland. His introduction was described by Guy Beiner as ‘the essential starting point for all subsequent explorations’. His most recent book is The Princeton History of Modern Ireland (2016), co-edited with Richard Bourke. Professor McBride has recently completed work on Irish Political Writings I, a volume for the new Cambridge Edition of the Works of Jonathan Swift. He is currently writing a book on Irish Catholics under the Penal Laws, based largely on archival sources in Rome.
Professor McBride comments: ‘I have consciously tried to bring a more cosmopolitan spirit to the study of Irish history. In particular, I should like to see Irish historians become more theoretically sophisticated and self-aware, and more willing to make connections and comparisons with other countries and communities. I would also like to see us develop further our public role. We will continue, I am sure, to provide critical commentary on particular historical controversies and commemorations, but I hope that we can also find ways to draw on the Irish past in order to bring historical depth to wider contemporary debates in Britain and elsewhere.’
Since 2004 Professor McBride has been convener of the Conference of Irish Historians in Britain which he now organises jointly with Dr Caoimhe Nic Dháibhéid. This conference was founded by Marianne Elliott and Roy Foster and has held biennial meetings for 40 years. It provides the main forum for Irish historians working on this island to present their work. Further details can be found on the conference website, which also contains twenty-two short pieces written to commemorate the centenary of 1916, and ‘Northern Ireland Classics’ – a series in which academics, writers and public figures choose the five most important books written about ‘the Troubles’.
Professor McBride has presented his research to a wide range of audiences, from the Presbyterian Historical Society in Belfast to Coiste na n-Iarchimí, an ex-prisoners organization consisting of former members of the Provisional IRA, in South Armagh. As part of Derry’s year as city of culture (2013) he organized a conference on the history and legacy of the Siege of Derry in collaboration with the Apprentice Boys. He has been interviewed for a variety of BBC Northern Ireland programmes, and was presenter and consultant on a one-hour documentary entitled Forgotten Revolutionary: Francis Hutcheson, first broadcast on BBC2 on 25 July 2012; he was also a panellist on Melvin Bragg’s In Our Time episode on A Modest Proposal.
Read more about Professor McBride’s enthusiasms on the pages below: