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Professor Roy Foster

(Elected 2004)

As Carroll Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford since 1991, Roy Foster holds the only endowed Chair of Irish History in Britain. He joined Birkbeck in 1974, becoming Professor of Modern British History in 1988. ‘I am delighted to become a Birkbeck Fellow. It means returning to a great institution which gave me my first job, where I stayed for 17 years.’

At Birkbeck, he helped establish the School of History, Classics and Archaeology (now the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology). ‘I felt very privileged to be joining Eric Hobsbawm and Roderick Floud. Andrew Sanders and I started an MA in Victorian Studies, which was the best teaching experience of my life. The intellectual give-and-take was a constant stimulation, and I still miss it.’ He also remembers ‘the marvellous variety of students. One gently put me right in a lecture on the 1930s, pointing out that he had been there. Others, like Dr Mary-Lou Legg, stayed with me as a BA, MA and doctoral student. She ended up teaching at Birkbeck. That kind of continuity was part of the rewarding ethos of Birkbeck.’

His Conquering England: The Irish in the Victorian Metropolis, co-written with Fintan Cullen, is out this month to coincide with their National Portrait Gallery exhibition.