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Burns Visiting Scholars


Current Visiting Scholar


Since 1991, the Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program has brought to Boston College a long and distinguished series of academics, writers, artists, journalists, librarians, and notable public figures who have made significant contributions to Irish cultural and intellectual life. Burns Visiting Scholars teach courses, offer public lectures, and engage with the rich resources of the John J. Burns Library in their ongoing research, writing, and creative endeavors.

The Burns Visiting Scholar in Irish Studies program is a cooperative venture between Boston College's interdisciplinary Irish Studies program and the Boston College Libraries. It was established by and receives continuing support from the family and friends of the Honorable John J. Burns (Class of 1921), who also generously contributed to the creation of the John J. Burns Library and support the growth of its extraordinary collections pertaining to Irish history, literature, music, and culture. The Burns Visiting Scholar program has also benefited from support from the Office of the Provost.

In recognition of its 25th anniversary, Boston College Communications profiled the Burns Visiting Scholar program in a November 7, 2016 article.  In October 2016, Irish America magazine also published a special supplement in celebration of this milestone. Read the article or download a copy.


Photo of James KellyJames Kelly is Professor of History at Dublin City University until recently. A graduate of University College Dublin (1985), he has spent his working life in St Patrick’s College then a College of Dublin City University, where he was head of subject between 1999 and 2016, and, since the College was formally incorporated into the University, as Head of the School of History and Geography at DCU. He was acting Dean of Humanities between 2012 and 2016.

His main research interests lie in the areas of Irish political and social history in the period 1660-1860, on which he has published widely. His publications include That damn’d thing called honour: duelling in Ireland, 1750-1860 (1995); Henry Flood: Patriots and politics in eighteenth-century Ireland (1995); Poynings’ Law and the making of law in Ireland, 1660-1800 (2007), Clubs and Societies in eighteenth-century Ireland (edited with Martyn Powell) (2010); The proclamations of Ireland 1660-1821 (5 vols, IMC, 2014); Sport in Ireland, 1600-1840 (Four Court Press, 2014). His most recent monograph is Food rioting in Ireland in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (Four Courts Press, 2017). He is editor of volume 3 of the Cambridge history of Ireland: Ireland, 1730-1880 (Cambridge, 2018), and recently (with Tomás Ó Carragáin) of Climate and Society in Ireland: from prehistory to the present (Royal Irish Academy, 2021).

Kelly was a member of the Irish Manuscripts Commission from 1999 to 2021, and editor of the Commission’s serial Publication Analecta Hibernica. He has also served terms as editor of Studia Hibernica and Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy.

An active member of various historical societies and bodies, Kelly has served as president of the Irish Historical Society, the Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society, and, most recently, of Irish Economic and Social History Society (2012-21).


18th-century Ireland: The Age of Protestant Ascendency
Tuesdays, 12:30pm-2:50pm
Stokes Hall 376S, graduate students welcome

This seminar will examine the age of Protestant ascendancy in Ireland in context. It will explore and analyze the exercise of Protestant power between the military triumph of 1689-91 and the early nineteenth Century. It will address the challenges posed by the emergence of a politically and demographically energized Catholic population led by Daniel O'Connell. The course also engages closely with the economic and social history of the period.

Public Lecture:

"Satirical Fun: Irish Single Sheet Caricature in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries"
Thursday, March 17, 4:30pm reception, 5:30pm lecture
; free and open to the public
Burns Library, Thompson Room
Watch/listen to the lecture on YouTube (subtitles available)

"Satirical Fun: Irish Single Sheet Caricature in the Late Eighteenth and Early Nineteenth Centuries

For half a century between the late 1770s and the late 1820s a number of Dublin based print-sellers specialised in the production of single sheet caricatures. Much of what they offered for sale consisted of Irish copies of images developed in London by the great names in caricature. There are many examples of  images produced by the likes of James Gillray, Thomas Rowlandson and various members of the Cruikshank family, but Irish printsellers also promoted the production of Irish images. All, whatever their origin, offer a unique perspective on what people living in Ireland found humorous that is equally revealing of the politics and society of the era. This illustrated lecture will provide an overview of this phenomenon, identify those who sustained it and outline its main achievements.

The lecture will be preceded by a wine, beer, and hors d'oeuvres reception beginning at 4:30pm in the Burns Library Irish Room. The lecture will follow at 5:30pm upstairs in the Thompson Room. All are welcome. Visitors are kindly requested to observe current Boston College Covid-19 protocols. Directions, parking, and accessibility information is available on the Burns Library website.


Paul Murray, novelist 2022 Fall 


Follow the link below to read about each of the more than forty Burns Visiting Scholars whom we have welcomed to campus since the program began in 1991. For several of our more recent scholars, you will find links to streaming recordings of their public lectures.

Previous Burns Visiting Scholars