Annual Conference

The 2022 Annual Conference of the Eighteenth-Century Ireland Society/An Cumann Éire san Ochtú Céad Déag is scheduled to take place as an in-person event in University College Cork, 17-18 June.

The conference dinner will take place in Jacob’s on the Mall on Friday 17 June. We are also delighted to offer a walking tour of Cork on the morning of Sunday 19 June, which will be led by Kevin Hurley of the Irish Georgian Society.  

Plenary Papers

Dr Neil Buttimer, 'The Gaelic Ancien Régime, 1700-1800 A.D.'

Gaelic Ireland appears in a period of transition throughout the 1700s, as it moved from a medieval past towards the beginnings of modernity as we now know it. The era had not entirely jettisoned its prior heritage during the eighteenth century.  This talk examines various categories of contemporary record for familiarity with pre-existing communal and social structures, and their values.  It looks at how and by whom such information was accessed, presented or circulated. When so doing, the lecture examines concepts involving authority, rulership and status.  It considers what legacy any ideology inherent or detectable in the evidence left to the age which followed, placing that topic in the context of relevant existing scholarship on the matter itself or data relating to it. Such testimony may seem passé or arcane, but the strands of experience and thinking inherent in it could be of enduring import. 

Dr Cornelius (Neil) G. Buttimer is a Lecturer in the Department of Modern Irish, University College Cork (1982-2021). He will give the Alan Harrison Plenary Lecture at this year’s Conference in University College Cork. His latest publication is Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in Houghton Library, Harvard University published by Notre Dame Press (2022). 

Dr Gillian O'Brien, ‘Snuff, Chocolate & Rum: What Convent records tell us about life in Georgian Cork’

This paper will focus on the wealth of information contained in the account books of the Ursuline and Presentation convents in Georgian Cork. In the absence of photographs the account books provide us with the most detailed account of what life in a late eighteenth century convent was like. They give us an insight into what the nuns and students ate and drank, how much fuel they used, how the convent, classrooms and dormitories were furnished and decorated, what the gardens looked like. Not only that, they reveal the convent’s engagement with the world beyond its walls. While the nuns often had little direct experience of the outside world, the account books reveal the ways in which their presence impacted the local economy very often naming the merchants they bought from and the staff they employed. We also see aspects of the global economy evident with their purchase of items such as chocolate, wine and rum and this paper will also touch on Cork’s relationship with the slave trade. The final aspect of the paper will be a consideration of how detailed (and often mundane) records can be used to inform various forms of public history including exhibitions, talks and podcasts.  

Dr Gillian O’Brien is the author of The Darkness Echoing: Exploring Ireland’s Places of Famine, Death and Rebellion (2020) and Blood Runs Green: The Murder that Transfixed Gilded Age Chicago (2015), and co-editor of Georgian Dublin and Portraits of the City: Dublin and the Wider World. She is the author of many chapters and articles on the history of education, journalism, dark tourism, terrorism, and convents.  She is a member of the Board of the Irish Museums Association and is involved in a number of public history projects. Gillian has been the historical advisor for museum and heritage schemes including the development of Spike Island in Co. Cork, Ireland and work on Kilmainham Gaol and Courthouse in Co. Dublin and Nano Nagle Place in Cork city. As part of her work on museums and heritage centres, she has published ‘Inception, Development, Operation: A Report on Best Practice for Site-Specific Museums and Heritage Centres’ (2018) and ‘Beyond Storytelling: Exhibiting the Past’ (2020).

Prof. David O'Shaughnessy, ‘Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer and the Georgian repertory’

Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer is heralded as one of the great comedies of the eighteenth century, one of the few plays from the period regularly revived in the modern era. The quality of the comedy was recognised on its initial run at Covent Garden in 1773 where it was performed 12 times that season to great acclaim. Anecdotes of its initial production tell a dramatic tale of near demise to instant classic and international recognition. Some 250 years later, the comedy continues to be one of the very small number of plays from the century still produced regularly today. 

But after that initial immediate success in 1773, how did the comedy fare in the repertory and was its now confirmed canonical status always so assured? This paper will survey She Stoops to Conquer’s first quarter century in the Georgian repertory and explore the correlation between its commercial value and emerging canonical status. Using the financial records of the two major London theatres, the paper will model a quantitative approach to theatre history with the ambition of producing a fuller account of She Stoops to Conquer’s importance to the Georgian stage and its theatre practitioners. More broadly, this paper will show how such an approach can illuminate other aspects of Georgian theatrical culture such as the careers of actors, benefit nights, and command performances.

David O’Shaughnessy is Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies at NUI Galway. He is the author of William Godwin and the Theatre (2010) and has published widely on Godwin and on eighteenth-century theatre. Most recently, he edited Ireland, Enlightenment and the English Stage, 1740–1820 (2019) and co-edited Charles Macklin and the Theatres of London (2021). He is currently working on a project on the finances of eighteenth-century theatre in London funded by the European Research Council and on a volume of theatrical writings for a new edition of Oliver Goldsmith’s collected works for Cambridge University Press. 


Registration is now open for the 2022 Eighteenth-Century Ireland Annual Conference and we would encourage you to register as soon as possible through Eventbrite at the following link: 

If however you are not able to complete your registration online, please return a completed registration form (See attached) by email to [email protected] and send a copy of the form by post, together with a cheque for the total amount, to the address on the form. 

Programme, Abstracts & Bios


Queries should be addressed to one of the conference organisers:

Dr Clíona Ó Gallchoir, School of English, University College Cork.

E-mail: [email protected]

Dr Máire Ní Íceadha, Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh.

R-phost: [email protected]

We will be guided by public health requirements and by UCC institutional policies on Covid-19, and we may therefore need to adapt the format closer to the conference date.