The History of the Historian

Matthew Moran sits down with DU History to discuss their latest historical publication and endeavours

The Dublin University History Society (DU History) was founded in 1932 by a group of students who shared a common interest in the subject of history. Whether you are studying history or if you just wish to broaden your horizons in the field, DU History prides themselves in being perfect for expanding your social circle and meeting people with common interests outside of your degree. 

I sat down with two committee members of the society’s 89th session: Meghan Flood, Public Relations Officer, and Terence Donovan, Librarian, to discuss what DU History has in store for the upcoming months and, primarily, their magazine, The Historian, which features diverse student-written pieces on a broad range of topics. 

Matthew: How many editions of The Historian are set to be released this year? 

Meghan: Ordinarily, we would release about two, but we’re hopefully looking at releasing an extra edition this year; nothing is set in stone. 

Terence: We think that this year, there’s a greater sense of urgency for a lot of people knowing what they’ve missed out on – society life in Trinity is such a staple of the undergraduate community. We feel as if we have more than enough demand and interest to warrant an extra edition. There’s a lot of second years in the society and it’s almost like they’re having their first year now, in a social sense, that they were deprived of last year. 

Meghan: Definitely. In Freshers’ week, we held a launch party for The Historian and there were so many second years. Normally, you see a massive first-year turnout, but there were so many second years looking to get involved. It was great to see.  

Matthew: What sort of topics do you look for in submissions for The Historian? 

“Sometimes it’s better to let people write about what they want, great things happen regardless.”

Terence: It’s not that we look for particular topics – we want it to be something that you are passionate about. We don’t assign anyone specific pieces. There was a friend of ours who was interested in a Renaissance mindset, coming into (what should be) the final stages of the pandemic, and it was about seeing the beauty as we emerge from something so terrible. There was a view that the Renaissance was not just a Renaissance in artistic terms, but rather it was Western Europe emerging from a plague – there are a lot of metaphorical similarities, and it was all about making the most of your surroundings. We didn’t even know that one of our contributors wanted to write about that, but that’s one of those pleasant surprises. Sometimes it’s better to let people write about what they want, great things happen regardless. 

Meghan: Just because we’re a history society doesn’t mean that you have to study history to get involved. We don’t want our contributors to send us an essay you’ve done for class, we want to see your own takes and interests. If it’s to do with history, we’re going to read it and always going to consider it. 

Matthew: When was the magazine first published? 

Meghan: I reckon it was around 2016. 

Terence: The society is in its 89th session, so it’s by no means something that’s always been a fixture, but as long as we’ve been in DU History it’s been considered one of the most cemented things in our calendar.   

Matthew: The society’s podcast, Many Moons Ago, proved to be a very successful way to keep up with members during lockdowns. Will it be continuing this year?  

“It’s really interesting that it takes you out of the direction of your studies, it’s a passion project on the side.”

Terence: Absolutely! It was one of those adaptations where we thought we’d have to do something new with respect to what last year was (definitely the most disruptive year in the 88 years of DU History’s existence). I’m doing an interview for it next week where I’ll be speaking with an historian from Oxford about his book on the Haitian Revolution. It’s really interesting that it takes you out of the direction of your studies, it’s a passion project on the side, and similar to The Historian in the sense that there’s less academic restriction. It’s really what you have an interest in. 

Meghan: I did my first episode [of the podcast] as a collab with DU Film, where we spoke about impressionist film in Germany. My second one was on game history, and I spoke about Dungeons and Dragons! I’m working on a new episode talking with [the National College of Art and Design], so I’ve basically covered everything that’s not in my degree… but is still history. 

Terence: In a podcast setting, you get to ask the questions that you may never get to ask in the likes of a lecture. An academic may also be more at ease to discuss topics in a more casual manner. A lot of people we’ve interviewed have actually offered to come back and contribute again. 

Meghan: I think, when you’re a student, you can sometimes see academics as if they’re on this pedestal – they can be unapproachable. For me, on the podcast, you’re having a one-on-one with them; you’re picking up a lot more than when you’re one of 100 people in a lecture. It’s been good, I’m excited to record my episode.  

As a whole, I found this conversation enlightening. It seems to me that DU History is a very active society and are very enthusiastic about the projects they undertake. They love meeting new people with similar passions for all things history.