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Minister Harris Launches Jane Ohlmeyer’s ‘Making Empire’ Book

Ireland’s complicated and contradictory relationship with imperialism is examined in a major new publication by Prof Jane Ohlmeyer. ‘Making Empire’, published by Oxford University Press, was launched by Minister Simon Harris in Trinity’s Old Library. 

Covering two hundred years, between the mid-16th century and the mid-18th century, ‘Making Empire: Ireland, Imperialism, and the Early Modern World’ provides new interpretations of Ireland’s role in the English and other European empires. The book is based on the James Ford Lectures, Oxford University, delivered by Prof Ohlmeyer in 2021. 

Drawing on a broad and deep range of historical, literary, archaeological, and material culture sources, the 368-page book documents how imperial processes shaped early-modern Ireland. It also explores how Ireland served as a laboratory for the British empire and how Irish people – Catholic and Protestant – became active agents in the empires of Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, and others.

Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science, said, “I’m delighted to be here today to launch an important new publication by eminent historian Prof Jane Ohlmeyer. In a ground breaking book ‘Making Empire’ gives a masterful overview of the history of empire in Ireland. Providing fresh understanding of Ireland’s roles in the British and other empires, this body of research is a major contribution to our knowledge of how imperialism has formed the present, and how it might shape the future.”

“History undoubtedly forms such an essential part of the identity of our nation. Ohlmeyer’s research keenly illustrates the fundamental role arts and humanities research plays in informing our understanding of who we are and where we came from.”

Prof Jane Ohlmeyer, Erasmus Smith Professor of Modern History at Trinity, added, “Ireland’s relationship with empire is complicated and full of contradictions.  On the one hand, as England’s oldest colony, the Irish had been victims of English/British imperialism from the twelfth century.  On the other hand, the Irish – both Catholic and Protestant – became active agents in the empires of Britain, Spain, Portugal, France, and others.  As well as serving empires, the Irish operated – at home and around the globe – as subversives within them.”

“Many in Ireland have either conveniently forgotten our imperial past or are simply oblivious to it. However, events of the early twenty-first century – Brexit, the campaigns around ‘Black Lives Matters’ and ‘Statues must fall’ – along with calls for reparations and the repatriation of plundered artefacts have kindled a greater awareness of the importance of revisiting the history of empires. Like it or not, the past is no longer in the past; it is in the present.”

The launch was hosted by the School of Histories and Humanities in association with Oxford University Press in the Long Room of Trinity’s Old Library. It will be preceded by a by a panel discussion entitled ‘Making Empire and the After Lives of Empire in Ireland’ in Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

Source: Trinity College Dublin

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