Prof. Peter Gray

Peter Gray - Parkway-0361BA, PhD (Cambridge), FRHistS, MRIA

Professor of Modern Irish History

Director, Institute of Irish Studies

School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics

Queen’s University Belfast

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Tel: +44 (0) 28 9097 3433 / 5226

Twitter: @petergray47

Office: 12 University Square 0G.003 / 27 University Square 0G.005

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 was 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 is a member and former president of the Ulster Society for Irish Historical Studies. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2013. He has been Director of the Institute of Irish Studies at Queen’s University Belfast since November 2016, and is Chair of the Wiles Lectures Trustees.

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 written 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:





Recent Conference and Research Presentations:

  • ‘Baron Eötvös and Count Strzelecki in Ireland: Poverty and Famine, 1837-49’, event organised by the Polish and Hungarian consulates in Belfast, Stormont, 25 Nov. 2021
  • ‘William Sharman and the politics of Volunteering in Ulster, c.1780-1803’, USIHS (online), 11 Nov. 2021
  • ’ ‘William Sharman Crawford and Agrarian Mobilisation in Ulster, 1847-54’, ESSHC Conference (online), 26 March 2021.
  • ‘Paweł Strzelecki and the Great Irish Famine’, Pedagogical University Krakow and Poznan Town Hall, November 2019
  • ‘William Sharman and the politics of Volunteering in Ulster, 1780-93’ at Eighteenth-Century Ireland Conference, QUB, 14 June 2019
  • History Ireland Hedge School: ‘New directions in Famine history’, Dublin Port, 17 Nov. 2018
  • ‘Roundtable: new directions in Irish Famine historiography’, ACIS, UCC Cork, 18-22 June 2018.
  • ‘The agrarian thought of William Sharman Crawford’, European Social Science History Conference, Belfast, 4-7 April 2018.
  • ‘Representations of Irish famine and rebellion in the British satirical press, 1845-49’, at ‘Graphic Satire in the Long Nineteenth Century’, University of Nottingham, 5 Sept. 2017
  • ‘“Trevelyanism”, the state and famine in Ireland and British India, 1845-80’, at 11th EFACIS Conference, University of A Coruna, Spain, 31 Aug-2 Sept. 2017
  • ‘Assessing the British government’s response to the Irish Famine’, at Empires and famine in comparative historical perspective, Ukrainian House, Kyiv, Ukraine, 5-6 June 2017
  • ‘William Sharman Crawford and the Great Famine’, ACIS, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 29 Mar.-1 Apr. 2017
  • ‘Was the Great Irish Famine a colonial famine?’ (keynote) at Empire, Colonialism, and Famine in Comparative Historical Perspective, University of Toronto, Canada, 28-29 Oct. 2016
  • ‘Deploying the memory of Irish famine: the crises of 1859-63 and 1879-81 and the contested meaning of the Great Famine’, at Collapse of Memory – Memory of Collapse, Lund University, Sweden, 20-22 Sept. 2016
  • ‘William Sharman Crawford, the Famine, and land reclamation’, at ‘Nature and the Environment in Ireland during the Long 19th Century’, University of Southampton, 16-17 June 2016
  • ‘“HB’s” Famine cartoons: satirical art in a time of catastrophe’, at ‘The Great Famine and its Impacts: Visual and Material Culture’, Maynooth University, 14-16 March 2016.
  • ‘1847 – Year Zero?’, Nineteenth Century European Famines in Comparison, University of Helsinki, Finland, 7 Dec. 2015
  • Keynote: ‘Locality and region in the making of British famine policy’, at 4th Annual Famine Conference: ‘The Local and Regional Impact of the Great Irish Famine’, Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon, 20-21 June 2015
  • ‘Mabel Sharman Crawford’s Life in Tuscany: Ulster radicalism in a hot climate’, EFACIS conference, University of Palermo, Italy, 3-6 June 2015
  • ‘La Grande Famine Irlandais: problemes et historiographie’, Centre culturel Irlandais, Paris, France, 12 Dec. 2014
  • ‘The meaning of poverty – A workshop’, UCD, 5 Sept. 2014
  • ‘Travelling Irishness in the Long Nineteenth Century’, University of Limerick, 28-29 Aug, 2014 (keynote)
  • European Social Science History Conference, University of Vienna, Austria, 23-26 April 2014 (organised and spoke in panel on Comparative Famine in Ireland and Finland)
  • ‘Global Legacies of the Irish Famine’ (Keynote), Radboud University Nijmegen, Netherlands, 25-28 March 2013

Current PhD first supervision:

  • Stuart Brown, ‘Alexander Brown & Transatlantic Radical Irish Presbyterianism, 1750 – 1850’
  • Karina Wendling, ‘Education, famine, and conversion: Evangelical missions’ strategies and accusations of Souperism in Catholic Ireland, 1800-1869′ (external co-supervision with L’École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris)
  • Grace McGrath, ‘Power, profit, plantocracy and the 2nd Earl Belmore’

Recent PhDs supervised:

  • Michelle McCann, ‘A nineteenth-century Irish coroner: William Charles Waddell (1846-76). PhD 2018.
  • Fergal O’Leary, ‘Ireland and empire: colonial cultures and politics, 1882-1898’. PhD 2018.
  • Robyn Atcheson, ‘Poverty, poor relief and public health in Belfast  c.1800-1851’. PhD 2017.
  • Ruairi Cullen, ‘The Medieval period in nineteenth-century Irish historiography’. PhD 2016.
  • Pamela Linden, ‘Jewish identity and community in Belfast, 1920-48’. PhD 2016.
  • 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

Employment History:

  • Professor of Modern Irish History, Queen’s University Belfast (2005-present)
  • Burns Library Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies, Boston College, MA (2004)
  • Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in History, University of Southampton (1996-2005)
  • British Academy Posdoctoral Fellow, Downing College, University of Cambridge (1993-6)
  • Junior Research Fellow, Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University of Belfast (1991-2)

Academic Positions:

  • Member, EFACIS Committee (2019-)
  • Member, British Association for Irish Studies International Advisory Group (2018-)
  • Director, Institute of Irish Studies, QUB (2016-)
  • Chair, Wiles Trustees, QUB (2010-15, 2016-)
  • Head of School, School of History and Anthropology, QUB (2010-15)
  • Director of Postgraduate Studies, School of History and Anthropology, QUB (2006-10)
  • Director of Research (Irish History Cluster), QUB, (2005-10)
  • QUB Representative on Irish Humanities Alliance Steering Group (2013-)
  • AHRC Peer Review Panel Member (2010-14)
  • Member, Northern Ireland Museums Council (2009-12)
  • Chair, Royal Irish Academy Committee for Historical Sciences (2007-10)
  • President (2007-10), Secretary (2015-16) and Committee Member (2005-present), Ulster Society for Irish Historical Studies
  • Member of Editorial Board, Irish Historical Studies (2005-present)
  • Member, Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, International Assessment Panels (2004-8)
  • External examiner for undergraduate degrees, NUI Galway, History (2005-8)
  • External examiner, M.Stud. in Historical Research, University of Oxford (2006-9)
  • External examiner for Ph.D. degrees: Maynooth University, Radboud University Nijmegen, UCC, UCD, University of Cambridge.