The University also offers the Arbuthnott award to support high quality graduate students working on Irish history.
This prize is named after Justin Arbuthnott, who drowned along with three fellow Edinburgh students in July 1989 when their boat capsized off the coast near County Donegal. The award is funded by an endowment established by family and friends to commemorate his life and is designed to promote the better understanding of Ireland and various complex relationships which link Ireland and the UK.
The Irish history group hosts the Arbuthnott Lecture in British-Irish Relations, a public lecture delivered in recent years by prominent writers and historians including Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times and Professor Roy Foster of the University of Oxford, the biographer of Irish poet and Nobel laureate WB Yeats.
Easter Rising centenery
Edinburgh’s global standing was recognised when we were among a small number of international universities to be awarded funding by the Government of Ireland in support of events exploring the history of the Easter Rising of 1916, as part of the Ireland 2016 Global Commemorations Programme.
A series of lectures given by distinguished scholars such as Joe Lee (New York University) and Declan Kiberd (University of Notre Dame) presented cutting-edge scholarship on the Easter Rising to the wider public.
The day after receiving his honorary degree President Higgins returned to the University to address a symposium that considered the life and legacy of James Connolly (1868-1916), the Scottish-born revolutionary leader, writer and socialist.
Scholars from Dublin, Galway, Aberdeen, Dundee and York, as well as Edinburgh, debated both Connolly’s life as a committed socialist and revolutionary leader, and his legacy. Idealised by many in Ireland, he is little known in his native country. This event was jointly organised with the Centre for the Histories of Class and Labour at the National University of Ireland, Galway, President Higgins’ alma mater.
Connolly, born into poverty to Irish parents in the Cowgate district of Edinburgh, was the leader of the Irish Citizen Army which fought alongside other Irish revolutionaries in the Easter Rising of 1916. He was badly injured during his time commanding the revolutionaries from the General Post Office in Dublin.
After a court-martial he was the last of the 1916 leaders executed. He was seated on a box when shot by a firing squad due to his injuries.
Given the close ties between the University and Ireland it is very fitting that our Irish history research and teaching are setting the agenda in this global field, working with partners at Irish and other universities, hosting major international events, attracting and training the very best PhD students, and engaging with the public.
Ireland has a global diaspora reckoned to number 70-80 million people and it is appropriate that a global university should be at the forefront of the advanced study of Irish history in, as President Higgins stated, “the great seat of knowledge that the University of Edinburgh is and has been for so many centuries”.