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Name: Thomas Black

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: Celtic Britain 'Nation, Culture, and Identity: Writing National Identities Gaelic Britain from 16401639-17251715'


Thesis Description:

My thesis explores the construction and experience of cultural and national identities in an Irish-Scottish context from 1640-1725. I engage with literature in Classical Gaelic, Scottish and Irish Gaelic, Latin, and various forms of English. This polyglot approach is reflective of the material realities of the period, and allows the research to explore the experience of identity on the terms of those who were writing. The period is one of great constitutional and cultural change and key political, religious, and culture factors played a major part in shaping individuals' and communities' experience and sense of identity. A key strand of this research is the manifold connections and divergences between Irish and Scottish Gaels in this period and embedding that within analyses of the developments in the Kingdoms of Scotland and Ireland themselves. Alongside this there is analysis of the cultural and ethnic integration (or otherwise) in the respective kingdoms. The research is structured to provide parallel readings of literature produced around key historical moments for the Archipelago and advances the case for reading Ireland and Scotland in tandem on a myriad of issues such as culture, religion, Britishness, empire, postcoloniality. This is embedded in the structure of the work which comprises two chapters on Scottish and Irish experiences of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, two chapters on the Williamite-Jacobite wars of 1688-91, and a final chapter on 1700-1715 which surveys Irish and Scottish responses to Union, Jacobitism, and new cultural movements in the United Kingdom. This research is timely as it seeks to uncover multi-stranded and contested formulations of British identities, and comes at a time when ideas of “Britishness” and “British values” are being socially and politically questioned.

The purpose of the thesis is to examine the literary representations of the national and cultural identities of the Gaels in Scotland and Ireland from 1639-1715. This thesis demonstrates that Gaelic identities were already significantly divergent between Scotland and Ireland at the outset of this time-frame, and that this continued throughout the period notwithstanding common causes such as royalism and Jacobitism. As this thesis explores, this divergence is largely due to the very different internal politics and ethnic dynamics of early modern Scotland and Ireland. Nevertheless, although this thesis argues that a greater identification with the nations of Scotland or Ireland is evident on both sides of the channel, this is often in tandem with a partially incongruent, yet enduring, identification with a cultural Gaelic identity. The disjuncture between Scottish and Irish national identities and a Gaelic identity which had as its cultural heritage a space and history that exceeded that of just Scotland or just Ireland, is one of the key tensions this thesis explores. In Ireland, Gaelic identity was partially reconstructed into a patriotic and religious vision of Irishness in which the Gaels were part of a uniquely Catholic history. In Scotland, Gaelic identity retained its keen sense of difference from the Lowland Scots – though this was not necessarily antagonistic – and for many it also became bound up into a dynastic loyalty to the House of Stuart and to the Kingdom of Scotland. These discourses were refracted through the complex of literary cultures and practices of the early modern archipelago, and this thesis demonstrates that a study of the different genres, linguistic traditions, and mediums taken together is necessary to capture the manifold and subtle representations of Gaelic identities during this period. 

Supervisors and Institution(s): Dr Adam Rounce, Dr Nicola Royan, University of Nottingham; Dr Sebastian Mitchell, University of Birmingham.


Publications (please include full details with page nos. or web links):

Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities:

year 2018

  • Presented at the  "12th Forum for Research on Languages of Scotland and Ulster".  University of Glasgow.


year: 2017

Other Research Interests:

  • Postcolonial literature
  • Kingship and republicanism in early modern Britain
  • 20th century Irish literature
  • Romance literature
  • Literatures of utopia
  • Reception of classical literature
  • Neo-Latin poetry
  • Jacobitism
  • Pastoral literature


University email address: