Dr William O'Reilly

University Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History
Leibniz Chair in History, German Institute for Maritime History (Deutsches Schiffahrtsmuseum)
Full-time Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest
AHRC Peer Review College Member
Dr William O'Reilly

William O'Reilly has worked on a range of topics in early modern European and Atlantic history, and is particularly interested in the history of European migration, colonialism and imperialism. His current research project, with the working title Surviving empire. The translation of imperial context in a globalizing world, 1550-1800, explores the inter-relationship of European imperialisms from the later sixteenth century to the French revolution.

Since taking his DPhil at Oxford in 2003, William O'Reilly has taught early modern History at the University of Cambridge. He was previously Lecturer in History at the National University of Ireland, Galway and has also 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 2003-4 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge, before becoming a Research Fellow of the Centre for History and Economics in 2004, working on the Centre's project on 'Exchanges of Ideas'. He has served as editor of the Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press) (2006-9) and of Atlantic Studies (Routledge) (2004-9). He serves on the International Advisory Boards of the Historical Journal and Themes in Migrations.

In 2006 Dr O'Reilly was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for his work in European and Atlantic History.
In 2008-9, he was visiting professor in History at Harvard University and at the Center for History and Economics.

In 2013, he was awarded a Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching.

2018- , Leibniz Chair in German Maritime History
2016- , Full-time Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Budapest
2015-16, Senior Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, Budapest
2014-15, Fellow, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University
Senior Lecturer in early modern History
Director of Graduate Studies (2011-2014)

  • Early Modern central and east-central European History
  • History of migration, diaspora, colonialism and imperialism
  • Habsburg History
  • The Atlantic world

William O'Reilly welcomes enquiries from prospective students wishing to work on any aspect of early modern European, Atlantic and Comparative history, c.1450-c.1900.

PhD theses supervised and completed include:

  • Neval Berber, Bosnia's Muslims in English Language Accounts, 17th-19th centuries (published as: Unveiling Bosnia-Herzegovina in British Travel Literature (1844-1912), Pisa University Press, Pisa, 2010)
  • Claire Healy, Migration to Buenos Aires and Argentina, 1776-1890 (completed, 2006)
  • Maria-Fernanda Valencia Suarez, The Aztecs through the lens of English imperial aspiration, 1519-1713 (completed, 2011, now Professor, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Peninsular Centre for Humanities and Social Sciences CEPHCIS)
  • Andrea Cobern, Negotiating the Reformation in Habsburg Hungary, c.1520-c.1620  (completed, 2013)
  • Edmond Smith, The Networks of the East India Company in Early Modern London, c. 1599-1625 (completed, 2015, now Presidential Fellow, Centre for Economic Cultures, University of Manchester)
  • Mélanie Lamotte, Colour prejudice in the early modern French empire, c. 1635-1767 (completed, 2015: Research Fellow, Newnham College, Cambridge; now Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Center for Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity, Stanford University)
  • Rhys Jones, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the improvisation of power, 1775-1815 (completed, 2016, now Research Fellow, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)
  • Francesco Morriello, British and French Imperial Communication Networks in the Atlantic World, 1763-1804 (completed, 2018)
  • Richard Morris, German Identity in the Court Festivals of the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth century Holy Roman Empire (completed, 2018)
  • Tobias Roeder, Professional Identity of Army Officers in Britain and the Habsburg Monarchy, 1740-1790 (completed, 2018, now Wissenschaftlicher Assistant, Hofjagd- und Rüstkammer, Wien / Assistant Curator, Imperial Armoury, Vienna))
  • Oliver Finnegan, Pirates in an Age of Projects, 1688-1707 (completed, 2018, now Research Fellow, Prize Papers Project, The National Archives / Carl von Ossietzky Universität Oldenburg)
  • Jonathan Dixon, The Prester John Legend and European Conceptions of Eastern alterity before 1800 (completed, 2019, now History Teacher, Hampton School)
  • Eduardo Jones Corredera, Memories of the War of Spanish Succession in eighteenth-century Spain (1714-1758) (completed, 2019)


PhD Theses in Progress:

  • Nailya Shamgunova, Anglophone conceptualisations of sexual diversity in the Ottoman Empire and Muscovy, c.1550-1750 (in progress, currently Stipendiary Lecturer in History, Pembroke College, University of Oxford)
  • Guido Beduschi, The War of the Spanish Succession and Italy (provisional title, in progress)
  • Benedek Varga, Hungary, America and Enlightenment (provisional title, in progress)
  • John Freeman, Couronian Commercial Networks and Encounters from the Baltic to the Atlantic, 1638-1698 (in progress)
  • Hugo Bromley, Global and national mercantilism during Britain’s financial revolution, 1688-1712 (in progress)
  • Tom Zago, Monarchism, Political Culture, and Princely Education. A Comparative Study of the Education of Princes at the courts of Vienna and Versailles, 1680-1815 (in progress)


MPhil dissertations supervised include:

  • Ian Korner, Anglo-Indian contact in the reign of James I (2007)
  • Andrea Fröhlich Cobern, Mary Habsburg - Queen of Hungary and Widow of Mohács (2008)
  • Richard Speight, A Sixteenth-century English merchant community in Seville (2008)
  • Hilary Yewlett, Migration in the Early Modern Radnorshire c.1500-c.1700 (2008)
  • Neil Simpson, David Hume, Alexander Hamilton and the Early American Republic (2010)
  • Colin Greenstreet, George Oxenden and the New Merchants (2010)
  • Mélanie Lamotte, Colour prejudice in the Guadeloupe archipelago 1635-1759 (2011)
  • Charlotte Forss, Concepts of Europe in seventeenth-century Sweden and England (2011)
  • Michael O'Sullivan, Josephinism, orientalism, and antiquarianism in the life and work of count Charles Reviczky, 1737-1793 (2012)
  • Sean Heath, The memory of Saint Louis and the kingship of Louis XIV (2012)
  • Ian Kumekawa, A.C. Pigou and Personal Reactions to Paradigmatic Changes in the Economics Profession, 1908-1959 (2013)
  • Rhys Jones, Beethoven and the 'sound' of revolution in Napoleonic and Restoration Vienna, 1799-1827 (2013)
  • Richard L.M. Morris, Nature, Religion, and Identity in the Court Festivals of the Protestant Union, c.1609-1619 (2013)
  • Jonathan Green, Burke and Kant on Theory and Praxis (2013, winner of the Skinner Prize)
  • Roland Nathaniel, Anglo-Austrian Relations 1813-1815 (2014)
  • Louis Morris, The Lower-Rhine-Westphalian Circle and the War of Cologne, 1583-89 (2017)
  • Ciaran Grant, English Discourse on a Christian, Universal, and Perpetual Peace c.1640-c.1660 (2017)
  • Alexander Collin, Creating and Interpreting Communicative Space in Three Northern European Port Cities c.1500-c.1650 (2017)
  • Davide Martino, The de' Servi Family in Tuscany and the Empire in the seventeenth century (2017)
  • Guido Beduschi, Francesco Maria Ottieri (1665-1742) and the writing of Modern History (2017)
  • Benedek Varga, Kingdom, Colony and Ádám Ferenc Kollár in 18th-century Habsburg Hungary (2017)
  • Tom Wyer, English travellers in the Ottoman Balkans (1592-1687) and the creation of the expert (2017)
  • Pierre Salvadori, Cartography, Ancestry and Power in the Swedish Renaissance 1480-1580 (2018)
  • Hugo Bromley, Global and national mercantilism during Britain’s financial revolution, 1688-1712, (2019)


MPhil Dissertations in Progress:

  • Anna-Marie Pipalova, Negotiations of Bohemian Identity, c.1656-1740 (in progress)
  • Robert O'Sullivan, Mathew Carey and European Nationalists, 1780-1830 (in progress)
  • European History, 1450-1760 (Paper 16)
  • European History, 1715-1890 (Paper 17)
  • Convenor of Part II, Specified Paper 21: 'Borderlands: Life on the Habsburg-Ottoman Frontier, 1521-1881'
  • Convenor of Part II, Special Paper 'N': 'Central European Cities: Budapest, Prague, Vienna, 1450-1914'
  • Co-convenor of Part II, Paper 14: 'Material Culture in early modern Europe'

Previous Teaching:

  • Lectures on 'The Atlantic World, 1400-1800'; 'Migration, 1400-1815', inter alia
  • Convenor of Part I Themes & Sources: 'Migrants, 1000-2000'
  • MPhil course, The Atlantic World, 1400-1800
  • Leibniz Association Honorary Chair in German Maritime History
  • Senior Fellow, Institute of Advanced Study, Central European University, Budapest
  • AHRC Peer Review College Member
  • Editor, Atlantic Studies (2004-2009)
  • Reviews editor, The Historical Journal (2006-2009)
  • International advisory board, Themes in Migration
  • Fellow, Royal Historical Society
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
  • Research Partner, Asia and Europe in a Global Context project, University of Heidelberg


Tags & Themes


William O'Reilly is available for consultancy.

Trinity Hall
Cambridge CB2 1TJ

Office Phone: 01223 7 65956


Key Publications

  • Prospect Theory, Cascade Effects and Migration: Analysing Emigration "Fevers" in the Historical Atlantic World', (with James Boyd), Journal of Interdisciplinary History (forthcoming, 2020).
  • 'Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis", Orientalism, and the Austrian Militärgrenze', Journal of Austrian-American History, vol.2, no.1 (2018), pp. 1-30.
  • Selling Souls. Trafficking German migrants: Europe and America, 1648-1780, (forthcoming)
  • '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
  • ‘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.
  • William O'Reilly and Andrea Penz, Freiheit und Unabhänigkeit als imperative Postulate. Leykam, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, 2006. ISBN: 3-7011-0061-6.
  • '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.

Other Publications

  • ‘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.