An obscure centenary

Posted: June 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

History at Galway

2013 is the centenary of some important events in Irish history. It is also the centenary of some very obscure ones. 1913 saw the publication of one of the earliest books of essays honouring an Irish academic. ‘A great Irish scholar’, the Irish Times called him in its review of the book, and ‘one of the most seminal minds now in mortal existence’.

Such books are common nowadays, and many professors and lecturers are presented with one when they retire, written by their colleagues, students and friends. A hundred years ago, it was a new practice and was imitating universities in Germany, hence its usual name, ‘festschrift’. In the later nineteenth century, German universities were the most advanced in the world, and a lot of the features of modern academic life were developed there, such as the PhD thesis and the research seminar. These then spread to the rest of…

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