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Role of higher education in revolutions was theme of international conference at UCD.

Student and academic revolts, from the 1790s up to the present day, featuring the French student uprisings of 1968, Easter 1916, and other major protest movements which led to the emergence of new states, were explored in an international history conference in Dublin in June of 2015.

Organised by UCD, the event was open to the public and held in Newman House on St Stephen’s Green over two days on Friday 5th and Saturday 6th June. Entitled Universities in Revolution and State Formation the conference examined the role played by universities, both their staff and students, in social, cultural and especially political change, from the early modern to the contemporary. The event was part of the University’s Decade of Centenaries programme which was launched by Minister for Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht Heather Humphries in April 2015.

The conference was recorded for podcasting by Real Smart Media and these podcasts are now available via History Hub’s podcast channels on Soundcloud and iTunes.

The conference was generously funded by the Irish Research Council’s New Foundations and UCD’s Seed Funding Programme: Decade of Centenaries Internal Award Scheme 2014 and supported by UCD’s Centre for War Studies. The keynote address was given by Dr Renate Marsiske of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. The Mexican Ambassador to Ireland, His Excellency Carlos Garcia de Alba, was in attendance for this session. The conference was opened by Professor Orla Feely, Vice-President for Research, Innovation and Impact at UCD, and Chair of UCD’s Commemorations Committee.

Conference images © Real Smart Media.

Universities in Revolution and State Formation

The conference explored how, in the early stages, universities often acted as the forum for debates and had a guiding influence on events. It examined how, despite often central involvement in revolution and state formation, students and academics – especially the latter – often subsequently act as a restraining or moderating influence on these movements.

Noted academics also discussed their personal experiences on the barricades. “By enquiring into the role of activist/witness, the conference reflected upon these more recent events and provided an open space for discussion of their successes, failures, and significance” commented conference organiser Dr Conor Mulvagh, Lecturer in Irish History with special responsibility for commemorations at University College Dublin.

List of podcasts

Conference welcome by Dr Conor Mulvagh (UCD) and Prof. Orla Feely (UCD Research).


Dr Renate Marsiske (Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México).
Mexican Revolution, National University and the formation of a revolutionary state: actors-conflicts-university autonomy (1910-1929).

Panel 1: Enlightened Radicals: students and social change, 1790-1848

Dr Stephen Kelly (Liverpool Hope University)
Ultra zealous patriots: The Young Irelanders and the Catholic University of Ireland

Dr Francesca Frisone (University of Messina)
The Sicilian Universities between 1812 and 1848: political activism and training of the élites

Panel 2: Academics in State Formation

Dr Mairéad Carew (University College Dublin)
Eoin MacNeill: Revolutionary Cultural Ideologue.

Very Rev. Dr J. Anthony Gaughan (Independent Scholar/National Library of Ireland)
Alfred O’Rahilly, Creative Revolutionary.

Dr Matthew Stout (St. Patrick’s College, Drumcondra)
Emyr Estyn Evans, Queens University Belfast and the formation of Northern Ireland’s cultural institutions

Panel 3: Identity, nation, and the university

Dr Tomás Irish (Trinity College Dublin)
Students between two States: The Case of Trinity College Dublin, 1914-1945

Dr Conor Mulvagh (University College Dublin)
Scholars or subversives?: Indian law students in Dublin, 1913-16

Panel 4: Transformations political, transitions educational: Ireland, 1890-1923 

Ruairí Cullen (Queens University Belfast)
‘[T]rue history must be written from within’: History honours at the Irish universities c.1890-1910

Doireann Markham (University College Dublin)
‘Trying to settle down but it’s extremely difficult’; IRA volunteers and university life in the 1920’s

Dr Eve Morrison (University College Dublin)
Students at War: the IRA in higher education, 1919-23

Panel 5: ’68 in the Universities

Dr Sarah Campbell (Newcastle University)
“… [W]e’re paying for them to support the IRA”: Queen’s University students and revolution, 1967-1971

Dr Matt Perry (Newcastle University)
“Will He Be One of the Unemployed”? Student discourses of work, anti-work and unemployment in the revolt of May 1968.

Students, social change and ’68: a witness seminar with Professsor Emeritus Hugh Gough (UCD).

Tweets from the conference

Image: Orla Feely, Hugh Gough, Renate Marsiske, Stephen Kelly and Conor Mulvagh speaking at the Universities in Revolution and State Formation conference (© Real Smart Media).

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