Activist Histories of Ireland: Historical, Transnational, and Contemporary Perspectives

irish womens liberation movement

This two-day conference will examine the role of ‘activism’ in Irish history. It aims to draw together both historians and contemporary activists in a dialogue about the historical contexts and parallels of recent campaigns, as well as examining the political and ‘activist’ role of historical scholarship itself.

The repeal of the constitutional ban on abortion in 2018, alongside the successful campaign for marriage equality three years earlier, have been seen as watershed moments in modern Irish history, ostensibly signalling the remarkable transformation of a socially conservative and highly patriarchal country. Both of these historic votes represented a victory for concerted and long term campaigns by activists stretching back decades.Yet the broad-based grass-roots campaigns that drove them also echoed a much longer history of Irish activism, both at home and abroad, that has often belied this familiar story of Irish conservatism.

Using the broad and often contested notion of ‘activism’, the purpose of the conference is to examine the intersecting tactical strategies, ideological positions and social connections that have constituted Irish popular political activity. The intention is partly to explore the highly visible and often dramatic processes of social change experienced in Ireland over the previous two generations, but also to investigate the longer term histories that can contextualise and complicate the accompanying assumptions of a delayed modernity.

We welcome abstracts for 20-minute papers on any aspect of this topic. For full details, please see the Call for Papers here.

The keynote talk at the event will be given by Ailbhe Smyth, feminist academic, founding convenor of the Coalition to Repeal the Eighth, and co-director of Together for Yes. The conference will also feature a roundtable discussion on the role of personal and political commitments in writing Irish history, which will interrogate the place of ‘activism’ in historical scholarship. In addition, several delegates will be invited to submit a short (1,000 word) blog on their research that will feature as part of a curated series on Irish activism for History Workshop Online.

The conference costs £20 to attend for salaried academics. Thanks to the generous support of TORCH and the Royal Historical Society, it is free for postgraduates and those without access to institutional support, and there will be a limited number of bursaries available to offset travel and accommodation costs.

More information and registration details can be found at

Please click below for the conference poster (PDF):

Humanities & Identities

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