History of the Institute

E Estyn Evans
E Estyn Evans

The Institute of Irish Studies at Queen's University Belfast was the first of its kind to be established in the United Kingdom and Ireland (in 1965). It was established 'to encourage interest and to promote and co-ordinate research in those fields of study which have a particular Irish interest'.

For over 50 years the Institute has been one of the leading centres for research-led teaching in Irish Studies globally. Since its inception, it has attracted scholars from such widely ranging fields as Archaeology, Anglo-Irish Literature, Geography, History, Irish Language and Literature, Political Science, Palaeoecology, Social Anthropology, Sociology, Art, Architecture, Economics, Mediaeval Studies and Ethnology. The genuinely interdisciplinary nature of the Institute has proved a major strength. The combination of experience and background, resulting from the wealth of experience of its Fellows, provides a stimulating working environment, often leading scholars to develop new approaches in their research and publications.

The Institute's first Director, Professor Estyn Evans, eminent archaeologist, geographer, and ethnographer, was especially well qualified to develop a broad, flexible approach, as were his two successors, Professor Rodney Green, an economic historian and Professor Ronald Buchanan, geographer and former Chairman of The National Trust's Regional Committee, a prestigious national charity committed to the preservation of historic properties and the conservation of important environmental sites.

The Institute has offered a very popular taught MA programme since 1987, providing the opportunity for graduates to undertake interdisciplinary study in the field of Irish Studies: the wide range of subjects offered maintains the spirit of the Institute, expressed by Estyn Evans in 1966 in the words: 'We would like to hold an increasing number of our own graduates who could enter the research field through the gateway of Irish Studies'.

In 1995 the joint meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies and the Canadian Association for Irish Studies was hosted by the Institute, and in 2010 it hosted the annual conference of the Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ).