Prof. Peter Gray

PG1BA, 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

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

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:

  • ‘William Sharman Crawford, the Famine and County Down’, in M. Corporaal and P. Gray (eds), The Great Irish Famine and social class: conflicts, responsibilities, representations (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2019), pp. 135-50
  • [with Marguerite Corporaal] ‘Introduction’ in M. Corporaal and P. Gray (eds), The Great Irish Famine and social class: conflicts, responsibilities, representations (Oxford: Peter Lang, 2019), pp. 1-26
  • ‘HB’s Famine cartoons: satirical art in a time of catastrophe’, in M. Corporaal, O. Frawley and E. Mark-Fitzgerald (eds), The Great Famine and its legacies: visual and material culture (Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2018), pp. 35-52.
  • ‘The Great Famine 1845-50’ in J. Kelly (ed.), Cambridge history of Ireland, Vol. III (Cambridge: CUP, 2018), pp. 639-65
  • ‘Mabel Sharman Crawford’s Life in Tuscany: Ulster radicalism in a hot climate’, in M. Corporaal and C. Morin (eds), Traveling Irishness in the long nineteenth century (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 35-50.
  • ‘”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), pp. 83-96.
  • ‘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), pp. 39-60. [PDF]
  • ‘Famine and land, 1845-80’, in A. Jackson (ed.), Oxford handbook to modern Irish history (Oxford: OUP, 2014), pp. 544-61.
  • ‘Conceiving and constructing the Irish workhouse, 1836-45’, in Irish Historical Studies, xxxviii, 149 (2012), pp. 22-35 [Full text]
  • ‘A “people’s viceroyalty”? Popularity, theatre and executive politics, 1835-47’, in P. Gray and O. Purdue (eds), The Irish Lord Lieutenancy, c.1541-1922, (Dublin: UCD Press, 2012), pp 158-78.
  • ‘British relief measures’ and ‘Charles Trevelyan’, in John Crowley, William J. Smyth and Mike Murphy (eds), Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (Cork: Cork University Press, 2012), pp. 75-86.
  • ‘Introduction: Poverty and welfare in Ireland, 1838-1948’, in V. Crossman and P. Gray (eds), Poverty and welfare in Ireland 1838-1948 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2011), pp. 1-22 (with Virginia Crossman).
  • ‘Irish social thought and the relief of poverty, 1847-1880’, in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, xx (2010), pp. 141-56 [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), pp. 50-66. [PDF]
  • ‘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), pp. 93-107.
  • ‘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), pp. 95-107.
  • ‘Famine and land in Ireland and India, 1845–1880: James Caird and the political economy of hunger’ in Historical Journal, xlix (2006), pp. 193-215 [Full Text]
  • ‘“Ireland’s last fetter struck off”: the lord lieutenancy debate 1800-67’, in Terry McDonough (ed.), Was Ireland a Colony? (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2005), pp. 87-101
  • ‘”Hints and hits”: Irish caricature and the trial of Daniel O’Connell, 1843-4’, in History Ireland, 12:4 (2004), pp. 45-51 [Full Text]
  • ‘Introduction’, and ‘The making of mid-Victorian Ireland? Political economy and the memory of the Great Famine, 1847-80’, in P. Gray (ed.), Victoria’s Ireland? Irishness and Britishness 1837-1901 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2004), pp. 9-14, 151-166 [PDF]
  • ‘Introduction: the memory of catastrophe’ [with Kendrick Oliver], and ‘Memory and the commemoration of the Great Irish Famine’, in P. Gray and K. Oliver (eds.), The memory of catastrophe (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 1-18, 46-64
  • ‘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), pp. 139-62.
  • ‘National humiliation and the great hunger: fast and famine in 1847’ in Irish Historical Studies, xxxii (2000), pp. 193-216 [Full Text].
  • ‘”Shovelling out your paupers”: The British state and Irish Famine migration, 1846–50’ in Patterns of Prejudice, xxxiii (1999), pp. 47-65 [Full text]
  • ‘Wellington and the government of Ireland, 1832–46’ in C.M. Woolgar (ed.), Wellington Studies III (Southampton: Hartley Institute, 1999), pp. 203-26
  • Nassau Senior, the Edinburgh Review, and Ireland 1843-1849’, in T. Foley and S. Ryder (eds), Ideology and Ireland in the nineteenth century (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1998), pp. 130-42
  • Famine relief policy in comparative perspective: Ireland, Scotland, and North-western Europe, 1845-1849’, Eire-Ireland, 32:1 (1997), pp. 86-108 [Full text]
  • British public opinion and the Famine’, in B. Ó Conaire (ed.), Comdhail an Chroaibhin: conference proceedings 1995. An Gorta Mór (Boyle: Comhairle Contae Ros Comáin, 1996), pp. 56-74. [PDF]
  • ‘The triumph of dogma: ideology and Famine relief’, History Ireland, 3:2 (1995) [Full Text]
  • ‘Ideology and the Famine’, in C. Póirtéir (ed.) The Great Irish Famine: the Thomas Davis lectures (Cork: Mercier Press/RTÉ, 1995), pp. 86-103. [Gray, Ideology and the Famine]
  • ‘Potatoes and providence: British government responses to the Great Famine’, Bullán: an Irish Studies Journal, 1:1 (1994), pp. 75-90.
  • Punch and the Great Famine’, History Ireland, 1:2 (1993), pp. 26-33 [Full Text]





Recent Conference and Research Presentations:

  • ‘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.