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History student’s research trip to the British National Archives

UL History PhD candidate Robert Collins writes about his research trip to the British National Archives, which was funded by the Department of History.

As part of my PhD research, I recently conducted an archival visit to the National Archives in Kew in London. This was my second visit as I had conducted a three-day research trip at the archive in November 2017. Again this was a short trip, therefore it was crucial for me to make the most of my time.

My research concerns Irish-American influence in the North of Ireland conflict. Primarily, it revolves around Irish Northern Aid, an American-based fundraising group established in the early 1970s to support the families of Irish Republican prisoners that was supportive of militant Republicanism. Consequently, much of my research centres on the reactions of governments in the South of Ireland, the United States and the United Kingdom and much of their efforts to undermine the organisation and its activities.

My archival visit was to examine internal government papers concerning how to combat the influence of Irish Northern Aid, as well as the negative propaganda impact of major policing blunders such as ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1972 and the 1981 Hunger Strikes. Owing to the empirical nature of my study, these primary source documents provide valuable insight and balance to the research.

The archive itself is well-managed and quite easy to use, with my familiarity to the services allowing for a more detailed examination of files. Importantly, the archive allows for the use of photography so it allows me to store the documents to examine at a later date.

Finally, I would like to acknowledge the financial contribution of the Department of History in allowing me to make this important and worthwhile archival visit.

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