R. B. McDowell

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from R.B. McDowell)
Jump to navigation Jump to search
R. B. McDowell

Born(1913-09-14)14 September 1913
Died29 August 2011(2011-08-29) (aged 97)
Alma materTrinity College, Dublin

Robert Brendan McDowell MRIA[1] (14 September 1913 – 29 August 2011)[2][3] was an Irish historian. He was a Fellow Emeritus and a former Associate Professor of History at Trinity College Dublin. He was born in Belfast. He was referred to colloquially as "RB", "McDowell" or "the White Rabbit". His politics were strongly Unionist and he was member of the British Conservative Party.

University career[edit]

McDowell 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 completed his graduate work at Trinity, having been elected a Scholar in Modern History and Political Science in 1936. 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 and resulted in many amusing anecdotes. He resided in the college until the age of 94, when he retired to Celbridge.

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


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

  • British Conservatism 1832-1914 (Greenwood Press) ISBN 978-0-8371-7708-3
  • The Correspondence of Edmund Burke (University of Chicago Press) ISBN 978-0-226-11561-0
  • The Irish Administration 1801-1914 (Greenwood Press) ISBN 978-0-8371-8561-3
  • Irish Public Opinion 1750-1800 (Greenwood Press, 1975)
  • Public Opinion and Government Policy in Ireland 1801-1846 (Greenwood Press, 1975)
  • Proceedings of the Dublin Society of the United Irishmen (Irish Manuscripts Commission, Dublin 1998). ISBN 1-874280-16-9
  • Grattan A Life (Lilliput Press, 2001) ISBN 978-1-901866-72-8
  • Crisis and Decline; the fate of the Southern Unionists (1998)[4]
  • 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
  • Trinity College, Dublin, 1592-1952: An academic history, by R. B. McDowell (Author), David A. Webb (Author), F. S. L. Lyons (Foreword), Cambridge University Press (30 Jul 1982) ISBN 978-0-521-23931-8

Co-authored works:

Books about McDowell[edit]

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.


  • McDowell on McDowell, memoirs; Lilliput Press, Dublin (2008).


  1. ^ Trinity College Memorial service booklet, 20 October 2011
  2. ^ The Junior Dean RB McDowell: encounters with a legend
  3. ^ "Professor RB McDowell". The Telegraph. 2011-08-31. pp. Obituaries. Retrieved 1 September 2011.
  4. ^ Review by Geoffrey Wheatcroft