Colin Barr


Colin Barr is visiting the Keough-Naughton Institute for the academic year from the University of Aberdeen, where he is Senior Lecturer in Modern Irish History.

He is here to teach, to research, to write, and, most importantly, to animate the Institute’s newest venture: The Clingen Family Center for the Study of Modern Ireland, established earlier this year by a generous gift from long-time Notre Dame benefactors Brian and Deidre Clingen.  

"I'm excited to have the opportunity to spend a year at the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies and the Keough School of Global Affairs,” Dr. Barr says. “Notre Dame is the center of Irish scholarship in North America, with unprecedented library and archival resources and a world-class Irish Studies faculty. In these challenging times, I can think of no better place to live, work, teach, and learn.”

Dr. Barr was born in Canada, raised near Seattle, and received his masters and doctoral degrees from the University of Cambridge, where he was a member of Gonville & Caius College. He has held academic appointments in Ireland and the United States and, since 2013, has been a faculty member at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland.

Dr. Barr’s academic interest is centered on the history of modern Ireland, with a particular focus on the Catholic Church both in Ireland itself and in the wider worlds of the Irish Diaspora. During his time at Notre Dame, he will be pursuing several projects, including the completion of a biography of Paul Cullen, Ireland’s first cardinal. Titled Ireland’s Pope, this will be the first sustained study of a man who many consider to be the most important public figure in the generation between the death of Daniel O’Connell and the rise of Charles Stewart Parnell.  It will draw on dozens of archives in numerous countries and is scheduled for publication in 2022.

Dr. Barr’s many articles and books include Paul Cullen, John Henry Newman, and the Catholic University of Ireland, 1845-65 (2003); The European Culture Wars in Ireland: The Callan Schools Affair, 1868-1881 (2010); Nation/Nazione: Irish Nationalism and the Italian Risorgimento (edited with Michele Finelli and Anne O’Connor)(2014); and Religion and Greater Ireland: Christianity and Irish Global Networks, 1750-1950 (edited with Hilary M. Carey)(2015).

His fifth and newest book,  Ireland's Empire: The Roman Catholic Church in the English-Speaking World, 1829-1914,  was published by Cambridge University Press in January of this year and has met with widespread acclaim.

Dr. Barr began this year’s visit with an excellent portal to Notre Dame: teaching an undergraduate, in-person course on “The Troubles.” The students are first examining the origins of the division of the island of Ireland into north and south in the early 1920s and then turning their attention to the heart of the class: the period in Irish history beginning in the late 1960s and through the signing of the Belfast-Good Friday Agreement of 1998. In between, they will explore through readings, films, and discussion the Irish civil rights movement, the events of Bloody Sunday, the hunger strikes, and the long road to peace.

Dr. Barr is finding the nearly 20 undergraduate students in his seminar eager learners.

“Not even facemasks can conceal that the students here at Notre Dame are fantastically engaged with Irish studies and Irish history,” he says. “They want to learn about the history of Ireland in all its complexity.  I am excited to be here on campus and to have the opportunity to teach them.”

While his class is “live” at Notre Dame on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, it is perhaps serendipitous that in this time of a global pandemic, when so many of our activities are necessarily virtual, Dr. Barr can draw on his extensive experience in the field of broadcast journalism.

He regularly appears on the CTV News Channel (Canada) as a commentator on British, Irish, and European politics, and has been a guest on BBC Radio 4 “Today,” BBC Radio Scotland “Drive Time,” BBC Radio West Midlands, and CKR Radio in Ireland.  

Dr. Barr put that broadcasting experience to good use in his first public lecture on the Notre Dame campus: “The Idea of Greater Ireland,” for which the Keough-Naughton Institute partnered with the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism on October 9.

Read more about Dr. Barr on his faculty page at the University of Aberdeen


WATCH Dr. Barr in his Hibernian Lecture at Notre Dame: The Idea of Greater Ireland, delivered 9 October 2020, in webinar format.