Martyn J Powell

Professor Martyn J Powell


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Personal profile

Research interests


My research focuses on Irish, British and American political, social and cultural history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. I am particularly interested in the way in which the public sphere and civil society develop in this period, and much of my work is on the intersections between the press and clubs and societies. I also have a long-standing interest in the history of violence in Ireland, and I am currently working on a study of ‘houghing’ and ‘chalking’ - provisionally titled ‘Houghers and Chalkers: The Knife in Revolutionary Ireland, 1760-1815’. Houghing is usually thought of as a mode of wounding animals, and it was a feature of popular protest in rural Ireland. But by the end of the eighteenth century it had been imported to Ireland’s towns and was used against the British army garrison.

Along with Robert Jones (University of Leeds) I am editing the political works of Richard Brinsley Sheridan for a 5 volume edition contracted to Oxford University Press. Again, this project links my interests in political culture with the press (Sheridan had an intimate relationship with newspapers), and in this case also the history of parliament. This is part of a four year research project (2016-20) funded by the Leverhulme Trust.       

My most recent publications include work on political trials in Ireland – looking at the ways in which associational and political culture in the United Irish trials of the 1790s became entangled with later radical movements; and also the return of ‘white slavery’ to Irish historiography – in this case by examining the Hiberno-American print-cultural nexus at the end of the eighteenth century, and its fictive qualities. In addition, I am working on a history of debt in eighteenth and nineteenth-century Dublin, focusing on the city’s marshalseas and sponging houses.

My earlier publications include books on Britain and Ireland in the Eighteenth-Century Crisis of Empire (2003) and The Politics of Consumption in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2005), both for Palgrave, and, Piss-Pots, Printers and Public Opinion in Eighteenth-Century Dublin: Richard Twiss’s Tour in Ireland (2009) for Four Courts, the latter marrying interests in Irish touring, the press and urban history. With James Kelly in 2010 I published Clubs and Societies in Eighteenth-Century Ireland (2010), a volume that, through its focus on civil society and the public sphere, continues to propel many of my research interests.

Research Supervison

I am currently supervising PhD students on political culture in 1790s Britain; Richard Brinsley Sheridan and the press; and the political culture of the Foxite whigs in caricature. Former students have worked on a variety of topics connected to Irish and British history, including the history of Bath, the political culture of the early loyalist press, and narratives of Irish involvement in the British army. I welcome proposals from students working on Irish and British history between 1700 and 1850, and would be particularly interested in projects broadly related to political culture in this period. Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss your research plans.



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