Personal profile

Research interests

I am a social historian with research interests in place, visuality and the built environment in Ireland and Britain. 

I am currently in the early stages of a new project on rainfall and urbanization in Ireland, 1800-2000. In the towns and cities of western seaboard of Ireland, it rains more than 250 days a year, a notable wetness of the air which shifts from swirling moisture to pounding rain as weather systems roll in from the Atlantic. But despite this distinctive, challenging climate, the weather remains absent from accounts of Irish urban history.  Exploring the intertwined histories of rainfall and urbanization from the beginning of the nineteenth to the end of the twentieth century reveals a new set of overlooked urban innovations and infrastructures which were crucial to patterns of urbanization; uncovers a new set of rain-dependent urban agents including bryophytes, insects, and fungi which found new ecosystems in wet walls and damp thatch; provides a new social history of urban life which foregrounds the weather as constitutive of urban culture, commerce, and experience; and examines anxieties associated with rainfall including the spread of potato blight, radioactivity, acid rain, and climate change, which have raised questions about the limits of urban governance and the impact of global capital on places on the margins. This project has been funded by the UoB International Strategic Fund and a British Academy-Leverhulme small grant; I have recently been awarded a British Academy Mid-Career Fellowship for the project, which I will take up in 2025. 

I have published two books of on modern Irish social history. Snapshot Stories: Visuality, Photography, and the Social History of Ireland was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. Through examining a wide corpus of photographic materials and practices, from photograph albums, to studio portraits, community photography, and documentary photography, it examines how ordinary Irish people used photography in order to make sense of their lives and contest authority and injustice, and explore what using photographs can tell us about the nature of social history. My first book, Modern Dublin: Urban Change and the Irish Past, 1957-73 (Oxford University Press, 2013), focused on the evolution of the built form of Dublin during the 1960s. It examined how speculators and local government planned to reconstruct the city, how these changes were contested by individuals and civil society, and the city that emerged at the nexus of these competing interests. I have continued to work on the history of cities, with a particular interest in the landscapes of urban decline in the latter part of the twentieth century. This has included studies of urban folklore, cycling, and dereliction. 

I joined Bristol as Lecturer in History in 2015. Prior to this I was Chancellor's Fellow in History at the University of Edinburgh (2013-15) and Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Centre for Urban History, University of Leicester (2011-13). I am secretary of the British Association of Irish Studies, on the committee of the Urban History Group, the editorial board of Urban History, and the executive committee of the European Association of Urban History.  

Research Supervision

I currently supervise M.Phil and Ph.D students working across urban history, photographic history, and social histories of Ireland. I would be happy to supervise postgraduates who are interested in working on Irish history, visual culture, or urban history. Please feel free to get in touch to discuss ideas. 


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