€2.5 million awarded to research project uncovering lives of women in Irish history

Professor Jane Ohlmeyer received the European Research Council Advanced Grant, the most competitive of all award categories

€2.5 million of research funding has been awarded to a project seeking to recover the lived experiences of women in early modern Ireland, including their roles in society, and experiences of trauma.

The Advanced Grant, described as the most competitive of all categories, was awarded by the European Research Council (ERC) to Trinity’s Professor Jane Ohlmeyer for a five-year project.

Ohlmeyer’s project, titled VOICES: Life and Death, War and Peace, c.1550-c.1700: Voices of Women in Early Modern Ireland, aims to uncover the role women played in a period of “significant cultural and political change”.

It will also investigate women’s experiences of social upheaval and extreme trauma, particularly sexual abuse, during this period.

The project will use innovative technologies to access previously inaccessible historical data, working with the Science Foundation Ireland’s (SFI) Research Centre for AI-Driven Digital Content Technology (ADAPT), which is based at Trinity.

Professor Ohlmeyer will recruit a research team to work on the project, which will commence in September 2023.

Ohlmeyer, who is Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History, said that it was “an incredible honour” to receive the award.

“This funding will help to recover the lived experiences of ordinary women from Early Modern Ireland and offer new narratives that have been hidden until now.”

She added that she was “particularly excited to unearth these untold stories and move away from a predominantly elitist perspective of history”.

“I am also energised by the opportunity to employ innovative technologies for historical analysis which will chart a new path for historical research using interdisciplinary methods,” Ohlmeyer said.

Provost Linda Dolye congratulated Professor Ohlmeyer  noting how the grant acknowledges her “outstanding and innovative” approach to research.

“The VOICES project typifies the cutting-edge work being led by Arts & Humanities researchers at Trinity. It seeks to interrogate a rich historical record held in Trinity’s Manuscripts & Archives collection through the creative use of technology shedding new light on an important, but until now, overlooked part of our history,” the Provost added

Trinity’s Dean of Research Sinead Ryan also congratulated Ohlmeyer saying: “VOICES is an innovative project that harnesses Jane’s skills as a historian together with new technologies to shed light on untold stories of family, memory, and trauma.”

“It is particularly significant that a project so strongly focussed on Irish history, specifically the experiences of women in early modern Ireland, has been funded at an international level,” Ryan continued.

Ohlmeyer is the Erasmus Smith’s Professor of Modern History at Trinity  and the Chair of the Irish Research Council. She was the founding Head of the School of Histories and Humanities, Vice-President for Global Relations (2011-14), and Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute (2015-20). Earlier  this month she was awarded the 2023 Royal Irish Academy Gold Medal in humanities.

The ERC was established by the European Union in 2007. It aims to“encourage the highest quality research in Europe through competitive funding”. Applications for funding are open to any field of research, however applicants are expected to be active researchers with a sustained history of “significant research achievements in the last 10 years”.

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the research team for the project would have 200 members. In fact, that is the number of researchers working on projects funded through the ERC working at Trinity in total. Trinity News apologises for this error (amended 1 April).

Aoibhinn Clancy

Aoibhínn Clancy is the Deputy News Editor of Trinity News and is currently in her Junior Sophister Year studying History and Political Science.