The CEA CAPA Faculty Spotlight is a monthly series highlighting the individuals who teach courses and provide academic instruction at our global education centers in different study abroad locations across the world. Their teaching leaves a mark on students who study abroad. This month, we meet Dr. Mícheál Ó Fathartaigh from our Dublin location.
Q: WHICH COURSE(S) DO YOU TEACH AT CEA CAPA?
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: I teach ‘Engaging Ireland’ on the Dublin program.*
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR ACADEMIC INTERESTS AND FOCUS?
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: For over 20 years, my academic interest has lain generally in the history of the independent Irish state since 1922. Within this, I have two focuses: the development of independent Ireland politically, and socioeconomically. The latter has led me to become a historian of agriculture and rural life because for most of its history Ireland was an agricultural and rural society. This, in turn, has recast me as a European historian, as agricultural and rural history in Ireland is best interpreted when viewed in its European context.
Q: WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PROFESSIONAL HIGHLIGHTS?
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: In terms of Irish political history, one of my highlights has been leading a reassessment of the formation of the Irish state in 1922 coincidental with the centenary commemorations of the Irish state over the last decade. As the Irish state was being founded in 1922, a civil war began between the nationalists who had fought for its establishment. The received assumption about their divide was that it reflected a profound ideological difference of opinion. However, I was able to demonstrate through my research that this long-held assumption was incorrect, and that the split was not nearly so deliberate: rather quite arbitrary and personality driven.
In terms of Irish socioeconomic history, my highlight has been the publication of my study of the transformation of rural Ireland across the 20th century, Developing Rural Ireland. It was published in 2021. Such a study had never been undertaken before, despite how remarkable it is that rural Ireland went from being an agricultural backwater in 1900 to the home of one of the world’s leading agri-food sectors by 2000. The book was based on four years of wholly original research, and it won the Nilsson Prize at the Listowel Writers’ Week in 2022.
Q: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN TEACHING FOR CEA CAPA?
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: I have been teaching at CEA CAPA for three years.
Q: PLEASE SHARE SOMETHING UNIQUE ABOUT YOUR CLASS OR ACADEMIC DISCIPLINE.
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: My class is electric. For those students who already recognize the inherent value of history and the pure pleasure that comes from knowing about and also understanding it, they get a class that pulses with the enthusiasm for history that all history buffs want. For those students who are agnostic about history, they get a class that makes them zealous converts to the value and pleasure of history! The class brings Irish history (and culture) to life through many field activities in Dubin and some of the program excursions, including an overnight trip to the Aran Islands on the West coast, are linked with the class.
Q: WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT TEACHING STUDY ABROAD STUDENTS?
Dr. Ó Fathartaigh: When study abroad students come to Dublin, they immerse themselves in Irish life. However, Ireland—even more than most countries—is a place that can only really be fully appreciated if its history is understood. With each passing week with study abroad students, I see them becoming more and more attuned to Irish life because the dynamics of it make more and more sense to them thanks to our classes. By the time that their programs conclude, they tend to have the same instincts about Irish life as Irish people themselves! I enjoy this metamorphosis tremendously as I know that for many students who have never been abroad before coming to Dublin, they now have the skills necessary to adapt fully to life in any other country. This makes them truly citizens of the world.
About Dr. Mícheál Ó Fathartaigh
Mícheál serves as the academic leader and instructor of the ‘Engaging Ireland’ history course. This course is offered to CEA CAPA Dublin direct enroll students. In this capacity, he oversees the regular redesign of the course, tailoring it to reflect the newest perspectives on Irish history and the learning priorities of students studying in Dublin. A faculty member since 2020, Mícheál is a historian of Ireland, holding a PhD. in history from the University of Dublin, Trinity College. To date, he has had four books published on modern Irish history and he is a prominent voice in both the Irish and wider European history academy, and in public discourse on Irish history. Mícheál relishes the opportunity to work with students from diverse academic backgrounds, as well as from the arts, humanities, and social sciences, believing strongly that historical knowledge—knowledge of what our forebears did, and also did not do—is critical to the rounded formation of all students irrespective of their disciplines.