Irish History Online: An on-line bibliography of Irish history

Published in Issue 6 (November/December 2015), News, Volume 23

This year is proving to be an important one for Irish History Online ( and its associated network, the European Historical Bibliographies project ( A milestone has been reached with the publication of the proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on European Historical Bibliographies. This collection, entitled Historical bibliography as an essential source for historiography (Newcastle-on-Tyne, 2015), is edited by Bernadette Cunningham of the Royal Irish Academy in conjunction with three members of the Czech Historical Bibliography project team. It contains seventeen essays on a range of European bibliographic database projects, including Irish History Online. The first half of the book is broadly historical, while the second half addresses technical issues of database design and use in optimising the value of bibliographies within the humanities research infrastructure.

Historians in each European country recognise the value of national historical bibliographies as part of the fundamental research infrastructure in the humanities. The European Historical Bibliographies network exists to provide a forum for the exchange of ideas and expertise on a Europe-wide basis. The network promotes greater cooperation across Europe in compiling and disseminating bibliographic data on historical topics, so as to support transnational research. A shared on-line presence and ultimately a common technical platform for the sixteen participating bibliographies is envisaged. The Irish History Online project, managed by the Royal Irish Academy Library, is the Irish national bibliography for history and is an active participant in the European Historical Bibliographies network.


Since 2010 Irish History Online has been hosted by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), under the management of the RIA Library.

What makes Irish History Online different from a library catalogue is that it facilitates searches for bibliographic information not just on books and pamphlets but also on chapters from books of essays, including Festschriften and conference proceedings. It also includes information about individual art-icles in journals published in Ireland and internationally. It itemises the contents of a wide range of local journals published throughout Ireland, north and south. This makes Irish History Online an essential guide to what is published about Irish history, and it is very widely used by professional historians, local historians, students of Irish history, genealogists and general readers. It is regularly updated and is free to use. Much of what has been published on Irish history in the past six months is already listed.

The Irish History Online project is now twelve years old. It was established at NUI Maynooth in 2003 with a three-year start-up grant from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS). It received another IRCHSS project grant for the years 2006–9. In that time the annual bibliographies that had appeared in Irish Historical Studies since 1938 were converted to an on-line database, coverage was expanded to include the Irish abroad, and additional updates were made. Irish Research Council funding for the project ended in September 2009.

Since January 2010 Irish History Online has been hosted by the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), under the management of the RIA Library. It receives a small annual grant from the Irish Committee for Historical Sciences. In the absence of the research funding that should be provided for such a fundamental element of the humanities research infrastructure in Ireland, the work is done by volunteer compilers. Information on new publications is currently compiled and input by three volunteers: Máirín Cassidy (formerly UCD Library), Dr Ciarán McCabe (Maynooth University and NUI Galway) and Dr Bernadette Cunningham (RIA Library).

The project would like to recruit an additional volunteer to assist in this important work and to help develop the database in new ways. If you think you have the
necessary expertise and can commit at least one day a week to the project (based in the Library of the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, Dublin 2), do please get in touch. Among the competencies required are a very high level of accuracy in data-compilation and editing, a good knowledge of Irish history, and good proficiency in Irish as well as excellent English. The managing editor, Dr Bernadette Cunningham, can be contacted at, and the convenor, Prof. Jacqueline Hill, can be contacted at


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