RB McDowell

R. B. McDowell

R.B. (Robert Brendan) McDowell (born in Belfast in 1913) is an Irish historian. He is Fellow Emeritus and former Professor of History at Trinity College, Dublin. He is referred to colloquially as "RB" or "McDowell".

University career

He was educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution, where he discovered his love of History, here he met T. W. Moody, later an esteemed colleague in the History department at Trinity. He was first appointed a lecturer in Trinity in 1945, and for 13 years (1956–1969) was the Junior Dean of Students, or "Dean of Discipline", a role that involved disciplining students in the tumultuous 1960s. At the age of 94 he left the campus of the college and retired to Celbridge.

In 2007, The College Historical Society of which McDowell is a vice-president unveiled a portrait of McDowell, which can be seen in the Graduates' Memorial Building, alongside Douglas Hyde & Theobald Wolfe Tone, amongst others.


McDowell's published work concentrated on the era when Britain ruled all of Ireland, and aspects of the Irish-British relationship.

  • British Conservatism 1832-1914 (Greenwood Press) ISBN-13: 978-0837177083
  • The Correspondence of Edmund Burke (University of Chicago Press) ISBN-13: 978-0226115610
  • The Irish Administration 1801-1914 (Greenwood Press) ISBN-13: 978-0837185613
  • Grattan A Life (Lilliput Press, 2001) ISBN-13: 978-1901866728
  • Crisis and Decline; the fate of the Southern Unionists
  • Burke and Ireland essay in The United Irishmen ed. D. Dickson Dublin, 1993.
  • Land and Learning; Two Irish Clubs
  • Ireland in the Age of Imperialism and Revolution
  • Historical Essays 1939-2001
  • The Church of Ireland 1869-1969

Co-authored works:

  • John Pentland Mahaffy (1971) with W.B. Stanford.
  • The writings of Theobald Wolfe Tone as co-editor (Oxford 1998) ISBN-13: 978-0198223832

Books about McDowell

As well as his scholarship, McDowell became celebrated for his eccentric dress, his Ulster diction and his ability to talk knowledgeably at great length. Hundreds of anecdotes by former colleagues and students were published in 2 volumes after his retirement:

  • The Junior Dean, RB McDowell - Encounters with a Legend (Lilliput 2003) to celebrate his 90th birthday;
  • The Magnificent McDowell - Trinity in the Golden Era (2006). Both books are edited by Anne Leonard, a graduate of Trinity College Dublin. ISBN 0-9553891-0-0

Books available from Library Bookshop, Trinity College, Dublin.

External links



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