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Academics to chart the historical evolution of the relationship between Conservatism and Unionism

Queen’s University Belfast and the University of St Andrews have been awarded £492,630 for a project which will chart the historical evolution of the relationship between Conservatism and Unionism throughout the UK.

Lanyon 20.07.2018 from a distance

Principal Investigator Dr Paul Corthorn, Reader in Modern British History in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s and Co-Investigator Dr Malcolm Petrie, Lecturer in Late Modern Scottish History in the School of History at the University of St Andrews will collaborate on the three-year Arts and Humanities Council (AHRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), funded project.

The research will examine the pivotal period between 1968 and 1997, when the previously close association between Conservatism and Unionism, forged amid the politics of the Irish Question in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, began to unravel. This decoupling of Conservatism and Unionism continues to have far-reaching implications for the future of the Union.

Speaking about the project, Dr Corthorn commented: “We will grapple with questions about the constitutional form that the Union should take, especially arguments over devolution, and the underpinnings of it, sometimes dubbed Britishness. With a Postdoctoral Research Assistant, Dr Petrie and I will draw on a rich archival base, including hitherto un-used sources."  

Dr Petrie added: “Concentrating on the interaction between political ideas and party politics, we will investigate Conservative and Unionist attitudes towards constitutional reform, devolution, the Cold War, European integration, and economic policy.”

The project will produce a book for a wide academic and popular audience and, as part of a public and academic impact strategy, there will be a public conference, talks and workshops, and a collaboration with the History Teachers’ Association in Northern Ireland to produce an online GCSE resource on Ulster Unionism in a UK perspective. Through a partnership with History & Policy, the project will also help inform contemporary debates over the future direction and durability of the Union settlement.



Media enquiries to Zara McBrearty at Queen’s Communications Office on email: