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Professor Peter Gray

BA, PhD (Cambridge), FRHistS, MRIA

Professor of Modern Irish History
On Sabbatical 2015-16

Tel: +44 (0) 28 9097 3433 / 5101

Office: 12UQ.G02

Peter Gray took his undergraduate and doctoral degrees at the University of Cambridge before holding research fellowships at the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s, and at Downing College, Cambridge. He taught Irish and British history at the University of Southampton 1996-2005, before returning to Belfast to take up the position of Professor of Modern Irish History. In 2004 Professor Gray was the Burns Library Visiting Professor in Irish Studies at Boston College, Massachusetts, and he will be Fredrik and Catherine Eaton Visiting Fellow at the University of New Brunswick, in 2015. He was chair of the Royal Irish Academy's National Committee for Historical Sciences 2007-10, and was Head of the School of History and Anthropology at Queen's in 2010-15. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2013.

Research Interests

Professor Gray's research specialism is in the history of British-Irish relations c.1800–70, especially the political history of the Great Famine of 1845–50 and the politics of poverty and land in the nineteenth century. He has recently completed a history of the origins and implementation of the 1838 Irish Poor Law Act, and is currently researching the life of the Ulster radical William Sharman Crawford. He has interests in the history of nineteenth-century political economy and social thought, in comparative imperial history (especially nineteenth-century Ireland and India), in historical memory and commemoration, and in the history of the Irish lord lieutenancy. He directed the EPPI project to digitise Parliamentary Papers relating to Ireland 1800–1922, and the DIPPAM digitisation project, and is PI for the AHRC-funded project 'Welfare and Public Health in Belfast and its Region, c.1800-1973'. He is a core member of the International Network of Irish Famine Studies.

Select Publications


Articles and chapters:

  • '"The Great British Famine of 1845-50"? Ireland, the UK and peripherality in famine relief and philanthropy', in D. Curran, L. Luciuk and A.G. Newby (eds), Famines in European economic history: the last great European famines reconsidered (London: Routledge, 2015)
  • 'The Great Famine in Irish and British historiographies, c. 1860-1914' in M. Corporaal, et al (eds.) Global legacies of the Great Irish Famine (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2014).
  • 'Famine and land, 1845-80', in A. Jackson (ed.), Oxford handbook to modern Irish history (Oxford: OUP, 2014)
  • 'Conceiving and constructing the Irish workhouse, 1836-45', in Irish Historical Studies, xxxviii, 149 (2012)
  • 'Irish social thought and the relief of poverty, 1847-1880', in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, xx (2010) [Full Text]
  • ‘Accounting for catastrophe: William Wilde, the 1851 Irish census and the Great Famine’, in M. de Nie and S. Farrell (eds), Power and popular culture in modern Ireland: essays in honour of James S. Donnelly, Jr., (Dublin: IAP, 2010)
  • ‘Thomas Chalmers and Irish poverty’, in J. McConnel and F. Ferguson (eds), Across the water: Ireland and Scotland in the nineteenth century, (Dublin: FCP, 2009).
  • ‘The European food crisis and the relief of Irish famine, 1845-50’, in C. Ó Gráda, R. Paping and E. Vanhaute (eds), When the potato failed: causes and effects of the ‘last’ European subsistence crisis, 1845-1850 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007).
  • ‘Famine and land in Ireland and India, 1845–1880: James Caird and the political economy of hunger’ in Historical Journal, xlix (2006). [Full Text]
  • '"Hints and hits": Irish caricature and the trial of Daniel O'Connell, 1843-4', in History Ireland, 12:4 (2004) [Full Text]
  • 'The peculiarities of Irish land tenure 1800–1914:  from agent of impoverishment to agent of pacification' in D. Winch and P. K. O’Brien (eds), The political economy of British historical experience, 1688–1914 (Oxford: OUP, 2002).
  • ‘National humiliation and the great hunger: fast and famine in 1847’ in Irish Historical Studies, xxxii (2000) [Full Text].
  • '"Shovelling out your paupers": The British state and Irish Famine migration, 1846–50' in Patterns of Prejudice, xxxiii (1999).
  • 'Wellington and the government of Ireland, 1832–46' in C.M. Woolgar (ed.), Wellington Studies III (Southampton, 1999).
  • 'The triumph of dogma: ideology and Famine relief', History Ireland, 3:2 (1995) [Full Text]
  • 'Punch and the Great Famine', History Ireland, 1:2 (1993) [Full Text]

Entry on PURE research portal



Professor Peter Gray teaches on the following programmes / modules:


 HIS2011 Politics and Society in Nineteenth-Century Ireland
 HIS3033 The Vast Catastrophe: The Irish Famine of the 1840s



MHY7020 Research Methods
MHY7035 Historiography
MHY7025 Historical Documents and Sources
MHY7081 Themes in Irish History


Current PhD first supervision:

  • Robyn Atcheson, 'Poverty, poor relief and public health in Belfast and its region c.1800-1851'
  • Ruairi Cullen, 'The Medieval period in nineteenth-century Irish historiography'
  • Pamela Linden, 'Jewish identity and community in Belfast, 1920-48'
  • Michelle McCann, ‘A nineteenth-century Irish coroner: William Charles Waddell (1846-76)
  • Fergal O'Leary, 'Soldiers, politics and Empire: Ireland, Egypt and the Sudan, 1882-1900'
  • Lauren Taylor, 'Emyr Estyn Evans and the cultural identity of Ulster, c.1929-1969'

Recent PhDs supervised:

  • Paul Huddie, 'Ireland's responses to the Crimean War, 1854-6'. PhD. 2014.
  • Aidan Enright, 'The political life of Charles Owen O'Conor, 1860-1906'. PhD. 2011.
  • Clare O'Kane, 'A society in transition: Society, identity and nostalgia in rural Northern Ireland, 1939-68'. PhD. 2011.
  • Peter Ludlow, 'The Newfoundland-Irish in industrial Cape Breton, 1880-1920', PhD. 2010.
  • Sarah Roddy, 'The churches and emigration from nineteenth-century Ireland', PhD. 2010.
  • Claire Allen, 'Urban elites, civil society and governance in early nineteenth-century Belfast'. PhD. 2010
  • Mary Clarke, 'The origins and impact of the Northcote-Trevelyan Report on civil service reform in Britain.', PhD. 2010