James Lydon (historian)

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James Francis Lydon
Born 1928
Died 25 June 2013
Language English, Irish
Citizenship Republic of Ireland
Alma mater Trinity College Dublin

James Francis Lydon, (1928 - 25 June 2013), was an Irish educator and historian. He served as the Lecky Professor of History at Trinity College, Dublin, from 1980 to 1993, and authored numerous works, particularly on the medieval history of Ireland.

Early life and education[edit]

Lydon was born to a large Catholic family in Connemara in 1928, the son of a local baker. His mother raised him to be fluent in Irish language.[1][2]

Lydon studied both English and History at University College Galway (NUI), graduating in 1950[1] and staying on to undertake research for a master's degree. His teacher, history department professor Mary Donovan O'Sullivan, suggested to him that "Ireland's contribution to the military activities of the English crown in the thirteenth century might be a subject that would repay investigation."[citation needed] Lydon moved to England to attend the University of London and studied under the influential medievalist Sir Maurice Powicke.[2]


In 1955, he completed his thesis, Ireland's participation in the military activities of English kings in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and it became the first of many published writings about the era.[2] Having a full year left on his Travelling Fellowship, he was advised by his mentor Powicke to "use the residue of the funding to travel on the continent, ... stay clear of archives ... read, visit galleries, listen to music, meet people and generally lift his eyes beyond the confines of the Record Office in Chancery lane." This experience "gave him an appreciation of European 'culture' in its broadest sense..." and enabled "... Lydon to bring the historiography of late medieval Ireland to maturity."[citation needed] Returning to Galway in 1956 he taught history via Irish and English and in 1959 moved to Dublin to lecture at Trinity College. He became a full lecturer in 1962, a fellow in 1965, and an associate professor in 1969.

He served as an educator for thirty-three years, and was Lecky Professor of History at Trinity from 1980 until his retirement in 1993.[2]

He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1967 and president of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland from 1981 to 1984.[3]


Primarily an Irish medievalist, Lydon published his first major work, The lordship of Ireland in the Middle Ages, in 1972.[2] In the 1980s, he served as a contributor to the Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland.[4] Lydon's other works include:


  1. ^ a b "Interview with Professor James Lydon". History Ireland. History Publications Ltd. 3 (1). Spring 1995. Retrieved 28 June 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Maverick Medieval Historian and Fellow of Trinity College Dublin". The Irish Times. 13 July 2013. Retrieved 28 June 2014.  – via HighBeam Research (subscription required)
  3. ^ "Professor James Francis Michael Lydon: Biography and bibliography". Retrieved 30 October 2014. 
  4. ^ Haigh, Christopher, ed. (1990) [1985]. The Cambridge Historical Encyclopedia of Great Britain and Ireland. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 6. ISBN 9780521395526. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Government, War and Society in Medieval Ireland: Essays by Edmund Curtis, A.J. Otway-Ruthven and James Lydon, edited by Peter Crooks. Four Courts Press, 2008. ISBN 978-1-84682-105-9.
  • Colony & Frontier in Medieval England: Essays presented to J.F. Lydon, edited by T. B. Barry, Frame, Katharine Simms. Hambledon Press, 1995. ISBN 9781852851224.

External links[edit]