Dr William O'Reilly

Associate Professor in Early Modern History
Leibniz Honorary Professor, German National Maritime Museum
Steering Group Member, Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement
William O'Reilly

I completed my MSt and DPhil in History at the University of Oxford after studying for my BA in History & German at University College Galway (NUI, Galway). I was Lecturer in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway until 2004 when I came to Cambridge as a Research Fellow at the Centre for History & Economics, joining the Faculty of History as Lecturer in Early Modern History in 2005. Since that time, I have been a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, Budapest, Fellow at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University; Visiting Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, and at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna; a DAAD Fellow at the University of Hamburg and Erasmus lecturer at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria and the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany. In 2017 I was appointed the first Full-time Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Study, Budapest. In 2018, I was appointed Leibniz Honorary Professor of History at the German National Maritime Institute.

I have worked on a range of topics in early modern European and Atlantic history, and am particularly interested in the histories of migration, colonialism and imperialism. I am especially interested in the history of German-speaking Europe and of central and east-central Europe, of countries which were once part of the Habsburg monarchy and empire, including Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Romania and neighbouring countries and regions.

I welcome enquiries from prospective students wishing to work on any aspect of early modern European, Atlantic and comparative history, c.1450-c.1900, and especially in the history of Central and East-Central Europe; Habsburg history; history of the Holy Roman Empire.

European History, 1450-1760 (Paper 16)
European History, 1715-1890 (Paper 17)
Specified Paper 14: 'Material Culture in early modern Europe'
Specified Paper 21: 'Borderlands: Life on the Habsburg-Ottoman Frontier, 1521-1881'
Special Paper 'N': 'Central European Cities: Budapest, Prague, Vienna, 1450-1914'

Previous Teaching has included :
Lectures on 'The Atlantic World, 1400-1800'; 'Migration, 1400-1815'
Part I Themes & Sources: 'Migrants, 1000-2000'
MPhil course, The Atlantic World, 1400-1800

Leibniz Honorary Chair in German Maritime History
Fulltime Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, Central European University, Budapest
AHRC Peer Review College Member
Fellow, Royal Historical Society
Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
Editor, Atlantic Studies (2004-2009)
Reviews editor, The Historical Journal (2006-2009)
International advisory board, Themes in Migration


Tags & Themes


Faculty of History,
West Road,



Key Publications

‘The Phoenix and the Eagle: Catalan Political Economy and the Habsburg Monarchy of Charles III/VI’, in V. Hyden-Hanscho and W. Stangl (eds.), Formative Narratives in the Early Modern Atlantic and Beyond (Palgrave Studies in Comparative Global History, 2023, pp.1-30).  

‘Millenarian News and Connected Spaces in 17th-Century Europe’, in Damien Tricoire and Lionel Laborie (eds.), Apocalypse Now. Connected Histories of Eschatological Movements from Moscow to Cusco, 15th-18th Centuries (Routledge, London & New York, 2023, pp.120-158).               

‘Habsburg Intellectual History in a Global Context: Revolution, Evolution, Innovation’, in Ines Peper and Thomas Wallnig (eds.), Central European Pasts. Old and New in the Intellectual Culture of Habsburg Europe, 1700-1750 (De Gruyter, Oldenbourg, 2022, pp. 53-96).

'Global, Regional and Small Spaces in eighteenth-century Habsburg Europe', Storia e Regione/Geschichte und Region, vol.30, no.1 (2021).

'Prospect Theory, Cascade Effects and Migration: Analysing Emigration "Fevers" in the Historical Atlantic World', (with James Boyd), Journal of Interdisciplinary History, vol.11, no.1 (Summer 2020), pp. 39-64.

'Ireland in the Atlantic World: Migration and Cultural Transfer’ in Jane Ohlmeyer (ed.), The Cambridge History of Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 385-408.

'Working for the Crown. German Protestants and Britain’s Commercial Success in the early eighteenth-century American Colonies’, Journal of Modern European History, 15, 1 (Jan. 2017), pp. 130-52.

‘Strangers come to devour the Land’. Changing views of foreign migrants in early eighteenth-century England’, Journal of Early Modern History, 21, 3 (2017), pp. 153-87.

‘Non-knowledge and decision making: the challenge for the historian’, in Cornel Zwierlein (ed.), The Dark Side of Knowledge. Histories of Ignorance, 1400 to 1800’, Brill, Leiden, 2016, pp. 397-420.

‘Religion and the Secular State’, in Religion, Kurt Almqvist and Alexander Linklater (eds.), Ax:son Johnson Foundation, Stockholm (2015)

The Atlantic World, 1450-1800, Routledge (2014). ISBN 9780415467049

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‘Movements of People in the Atlantic World, 1450-1850’, in Nicholas Canny and Philip Morgan (eds.), The Oxford History of the Atlantic World, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp.

‘Lost chances of the House of Habsburg’, Austrian History Yearbook, 40 (1), 2009, pp. 53-70.

‘Charles Vallancey and the Military Itinerary of Ireland’, Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 106C, 2006, pp. 125-217.

'Border, Buffer and Bulwark. The Historiography of the Military Frontier, 1521-1881', in Steven G. Ellis and Raingard Eßer (eds.), Frontiers and the Writing of History, 1500-1850, Hanover (Wehrhahn), 2006, pp. 229-244.

Freiheit book cover image

William O'Reilly and Andrea Penz, Freiheit und Unabhänigkeit als imperative Postulate. Leykam, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, 2006. ISBN: 3-7011-0061-6.

Other Publications

Atlantic world book cover image

'The Atlantic World and Germany: A Consideration', in: Renate Pieper and Peer Schmidt (eds.), Latin America and the Atlantic World. El Mundo atlántico y América Latina (1500-1850), Böhlau, Cologne, 2005, pp. 35-56.

'Der Primas von England und der Reichserzkanzler und Kurfürst von Mainz. Vergleichende Betrachtungen zu ihrer Rolle und Bedeutung im 16. Jahrhundert', in: Peter C. Hartmann and Ludolf Pelizaeus (eds.), Forschungen zu Kurmainz und dem Reichserzkanzler, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2005, pp. 71-88.

'Emigration from the Habsburg Monarchy and Salzburg to the New World, 1700-1848' in: Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit, 5.Jg. 2005, Heft 1, pp.7-20.

'Zivilisierungsmission und das Netz des Empire. Sprache, Landvermessung und die Förderung des Wissens 1780-1820' in: Boris Barth and Jürgen Osterhammel (Hg.), Zivilisierungsmissionen. Imperiale Weltverbesserung seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Konstanz, 2005, pp. 101-124.

‘Genealogies of Atlantic History’, Atlantic Studies, vol.1, no.1 (2004), pp. 66-84.

‘Divide et impera: Race, Ethnicity and Administration in early 18th-Century Habsburg Hungary’, in Gudmundur Hálfdánarson and Anne Katherine Isaacs (eds.), Minorities in Europe, Florence, 2003, pp. 100-129.

‘Migration, Recruitment and the Law: Europe Responds to the Atlantic World’, in Horst Pietschmann (ed.), Atlantic History. History of the Atlantic System 1580-1830. Proceedings of the Joachim Jungius Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften/Universität Hamburg History of the Atlantic System Conference, Vandenhoek & Rupprecht Verlag, Göttingen, 2002, pp. 119-137.

'Turks, Indians and the Margins of Europe', Belleten, Dört Ayde Bir Çikar (Journal of the Turkish Academy of Arts and the Sciences), vol LXV, no. 242 (April 2001), pp. 243-256.

‘The Naturalisation Act of 1709 and the Settlement of Germans in Britain, Ireland and the Colonies’, Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton (eds.), From Strangers to Citizens. The integration of immigrant communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1550-1750, Sussex Academic Press, 2001, pp. 292-502.

‘Conceptualising America in Early Modern Central Europe’, Explorations in Early American Culture. Pennsylvania History, vol. 65 (1998), pp. 101-121.

‘A life in exile. Charles Habsburg (1685-1740) between Spain and Austria’ in Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte (eds.), Monarchy and exile: the politics of the absent ruler from Marie de Medici to Wilhelm II (1631-1941), Palgrave, 2010

‘Orientalist Reflections: Asia and the Pacific in the Making of late EighteenthCentury Ireland’, New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 6, no. 2 (December 2004), pp. 127-147.

‘Protestantische Kultur in England und Irland im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert’, in Peter Claus Hartmann (ed.), Religion und Kultur im Europa des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main (2004), pp. 57-72.

‘Bridging the Atlantic. Opportunity, Information and Choice in Long-Range German Migration in the Eighteenth Century’, in Walter G. Rödel and Helmut Schmahl (eds.), Menschen zwischen zwei Welten. Auswanderung, Ansiedlung, Akkulturation, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier, 2002, pp. 25-44.

‘Agenten, Werbung und Reisemodalitäten. Die Auswanderung ins Temescher Banat im 18. lahrhundert’, Matthias Beer and Dittmar Dahlmann (eds.), Migration nach Ostund Südosteuropa vom 18. Bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, Ursachen-FormenVerlauf-Ergebnis, Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Donauschwabische Geschichte und Landeskunde, vol.IV, 1999, pp.109-120.

‘Dutch Writings on Southern Ireland in the 1790s’, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol. 104 (1999), pp. 21-36.