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UA Alumni: Joan Redmond

Meet our 2011 alumna Joan Redmond, Overall Winner for the History category with her research "Religious Violence and the 1641 Rebellion: Divided Communities in Seventeenth-Century Cavan".

Joan was born and grew up in northside Dublin, Ireland. She completed her BA in History and Political Science at Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin in 2011. She then progressed to postgraduate study, completing an MPhil in Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge in 2012, and then a PhD in Early Modern History in 2016. She is now a lecturer in Early Modern British History at King’s College London.

Where do your interests lie?

I am a historian of sixteenth and seventeenth-century Britain and Ireland. I research especially violence and conflict, which these places had in abundance at this time!

My PhD research, and the book I am currently working on arising from it, investigated the role of religion in motivating violence in seventeenth-century Ireland, and interrogated the influence of both European religious wars as well as Britain’s expansion into the Atlantic world and the colonisation of America on the conduct of conflict in Ireland.

Outside of work, I enjoy swimming, running and yoga. I have always been an avid reader and continue to devour novels and non-fiction, though not always history! With my husband, we enjoy travelling and visiting new places, including of course important historical sites!

What are you doing now and what has happened since the award?

I am now a lecturer in Early Modern British History at King’s College London, a permanent post I have held since 2017.

After winning the Undergraduate Award in 2011, I continued with History as an academic subject, pursuing first a Master’s degree and then a doctorate at the University of Cambridge. I even continued with some of the same themes and questions explored in my winning Undergraduate Award essay in my further studies: my essay examined religious violence in Co. Cavan during the 1641 Rebellion, and my research has continued to question and explore the links between religion and conflict in Ireland and Britain.

What do you like the most about what you do?

I enjoy being able to research and think deeply about big questions: how and why does religion seem to cause violence? How does religion interact with other factors, such as national origin, in shaping people’s identities? How do ideas circulate, whether religious division or justifications for colonisation? It is highly rewarding to be able to work on these and write about them, both for an academic and a wider audience.

Alongside that, it is hugely enjoyable to teach engaged, bright and committed young people and to share my own interests and curiosities with them. Watching them grapple with some of these big questions, develop their knowledge and skills, and become informed and analytical citizens is a vitally important part of my work, and one I love.

Has receiving an award for your hard work helped?

I think receiving the award had two major impacts. One was its impact on my own confidence: I think the recognition of my work was a huge boost in my self-belief about both my abilities as well as the importance of the research I was doing. Academic work can be lonely and tough on your self-worth, so the award was something good to look back on.

The second impact is more intangible. I suspect it was a very helpful line on my academic CV: external recognition of the quality of my work, early on in my ‘research’ career. While I will never know for sure of course, I think it was a boost in helping me to stand out somewhat in applications for scholarships, fellowships, grants and even jobs eventually.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope very much to complete the book of my PhD thesis within the next year or two. Beyond that, I look forward to developing new research projects, and continuing to learn and grow as both a historian and a person.

How was your experience as an undergraduate student?

I loved being an undergrad! I had a wonderful time at university.

It wasn’t without struggles: I realised during my first year that the course I had started wasn’t for me, and transferred to History and Political Science the following year. There were of course the challenges that all students faced: deadlines, stress, exams! Those are never fun.

However, once I had settled into my course, I was very happy: I enjoyed the academic work greatly and the space and independence to pursue what interested me most. The challenges were there of course: crunch weeks with deadlines and exams, juggling part-time work with keeping on top of my studies, commuting.

Above all, however, I developed a brilliant circle of friends across a number of courses. I am still in touch with many of them: one was a bridesmaid at my wedding in 2018, and among one group we have had a wedding a year since 2016, meaning a fantastic reason to meet up regularly! Those friends were undoubtedly among the main reasons I enjoyed my undergraduate years so much, alongside the sense of unfolding discovery in my academic work.

What advice would you give to students?

University is undoubtedly stressful, but it is also full of amazing opportunities. Try to embrace everything as fully as you can: the academic, social, political and intellectual dimensions. Even things that seem challenging or overwhelming are often a chance to learn – not only in your specific discipline, but more often about yourself and your capabilities. Above all, try to enjoy it!

Joan Redmond Ua Alumni Portrait

"I think the awards are both a vital boost for your academic development and profile, but also offer a chance to meet other interesting and accomplished students. It is a valuable and worthwhile scheme that could have many and unexpected impacts on your life."

- Joan Redmond, Overall Winner 2011, History