A Glimpse at the MA in The Irish Revolution 1912-1923

North Carolina native and current PhD student, Dudley Martin, gives insight into his time as a student in the Masters in The Irish Revolution 1912-1923 Programme.


My name is Dudley Martin and I’m from Hillsborough, North Carolina in the southeast United States. Currently I am a student in the Department of History at University College Cork, earning my PhD in Irish History. I have just finished a unique programme available at University College Cork, a Masters in The Irish Revolution 1912 – 1923. It’s a one year taught program, designed to provide a strong, practical foundation in historical methodology, offer important skills in examining and critically assessing the source material of the period, and evaluate the issues and events which have emerged from this critical period of Irish history (and have been the subject much debate on social, historical, and political levels).

The program includes taught modules, a research trip to the major archives in Ireland and the UK, fieldtrips to important sites of public history, and a research dissertation. The first part of the course is a series of taught modules. The first module, “Sources and Debates in the Irish Revolution”, examines the contemporary writings, speeches, and debates of the revolutionary period, with attention on such figures as Padraig Pearse, James Connolly, and Terence MacSwiney. The second module, “Historiography of the Irish Revolution”, examines the arguments and interpretation of the events by historians from the 1920s to the present day. The final module, “Public History, Commemoration, and the Irish Revolution”, focuses on the role of ‘public history’, that is, the use of the events of this ‘revolutionary decade’ by politicians and other groups and individuals to promote contemporary agendas. The research module gives candidates the opportunity to explore in depth the subject matter of their proposal, working closely with a supervisor in the development of a 20,000 word dissertation.

This program is structured to give students the necessary foundation to study history at the graduate level. The subject is one that evokes controversy and division even today in Ireland, making the approach of the programme so important.   The context of the discussions and debates, which look at the major events and historical players, take into account the various points of view, the biases, and the passions. I have found during the lectures the importance of understanding the reasoning that drives someone to take part in an event, and how someone on the other side can have an equally compelling reason to oppose it. The methodology used allows the history we are studying to be as living and compelling as current events. For me coming to try to understand the martyrdom of Padraig Pearse, the passionate fight for the cause of Labour by James Connolly amongst the varied figures who became part of the narrative during the revolutionary period, has been an absolute joy. The material is intriguing and, through the lectures and debates, there are always new insights to be gained and new questions to be asked.

We went outside the classroom to witness the marks left by this period upon the city of Cork. For me this is quite important as history becomes so much more alive when you visit the area where events occurred and see the legacy in the landscape, and the society as well as in the stories and writings.  We took a trip to archives here in Cork, to a number in Dublin, Belfast, and London. We were introduced to the structure and purpose of archives, as well as given the tools that we needed to write and research our theses. Best of all we were being prepared to take our passions towards this period, to add to the historical narrative, to continue the debate that has been ongoing since that time. The skills and the lessons that I have learned and will be learning from the amazing professors in the programme and the department will serve me greatly as I continue the research which I began in this MA programme.


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