Rob O'Sullivan

PhD Candidate

I am a PhD Student, working on the history of Irish-Catholics in the United States in the Nineteenth Century.

Before my PhD, I completed a Cambridge Trust funded MPhil (2020) at the University of Cambridge, looking at the commentaries of Irish-Catholics in the United States before 1845 on the Greek War of Independence (1821-1832) and Poland's Revolution of 1830–31 against the Russian Empire. I received my BA in History from Cambridge University in 2019. My undergraduate thesis won the Gladstone Memorial Prize for the most meritorious Part II dissertation submitted by a candidate in the Faculty of Economics, Faculty of History and Department of Politics and International Studies, and the Junior Sara Norton Prize for the best Undergraduate Dissertation in American History.

I am a Co-Convenor of the Cambridge History of Memory and Emotions Workshop

My PhD will examine how Irish-Catholics in the United States, between 1815 and 1879, from the conclusion of the Napoleonic Wars to the New Departure, constructed a sense of identity, and shaped a collective understanding of Irish history, through commentaries in the Irish-American press on European nationalism, anti-Catholicism and imperialism. My PhD will consider how events such as Spanish-American Independence, the Abolition of Slavery in the British Empire, the 1848 Revolutions, the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the rise of nationalist movements in Europe, and the German Kulturkampf, among many others, shaped how American Irish-Catholics understood what it meant to be an Irish-Catholic in the United States. I will argue that American Irish-Catholics saw the Irish struggle as the principle cause of the 19th Century, through comparison with other global moments, and understood Irish history as a narrative of incomparable persecution, which was reinforced by regular comparison with other persecuted peoples worldwide.

Research Interests:

American History

Modern European History

Modern Irish History

Global history





Print and Media


6th Annual Cambridge-Edinburgh Early Career Researchers Conference on Modern Irish History: University of Edinburgh: Spanish American Independence, the Greek War of Independence and the Polish Revolution in the collective memory of American Irish Catholics, 1820-1845: remembrance, republicanism and repeal in the United States

Key publications

'The 1844 Philadelphia Bible Riots and the American Irish-Catholic press', Pennsylvania History: A Journal of Mid-Atlantic Studies (Forthcoming, 2022).

'Greece, Poland and the construction of American Irish-Catholic identity in the New York Truth Teller, 1820-1845', Journal of American Ethnic History (Forthcoming).