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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge
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    Professor Clair Wills

    Murray Edwards College
    Huntingdon Road
    CB3 0DF

    Professorial Fellow in English



    Degrees and Honours

    BA, Oxon; D. Phil (Oxon); HMRIA

    Awards and Prizes

    Irish Times International Non-Fiction Book of the Year, awarded to Lovers and Strangers (2017)

    International PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History, awarded to That Neutral Island (2007)

    American Conference for Irish Studies Michael J. Durkan Prize, awarded to That Neutral Island (2008)

    Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, ‘The Irish in Britain: A Social and Cultural History, 1945-1965’ (2010-2013)

    British Academy Senior Research Fellowship, ‘Ireland’s Post-War Emigrant Culture’ (2006-7)

    Leverhulme Research Fellowship, ‘A History of Ireland during the Second World War’ (2002-3)

    Research Interests

    Clair writes about the social, cultural and literary history of Britain and Ireland in the twentieth century.  She is particularly interested in migration in post-war Europe and the ways in which it gets represented, by migrants and by others; in literature and culture in Northern Ireland; in contemporary British fiction; in feminism and women’s writing; and in the history and experiences of coercive confinement in institutions (including psychiatric institutions) in Britain and Ireland in the twentieth century. 

    She works across the disciplines of literature, history, and cultural theory and is keen to explore new genres of academic writing. 

    Clair is a keen jazz dancer and she has set up an interdisciplinary workshop with colleagues in Cambridge to explore the question, ‘What do we write about when we write about dance?’


    Clair recently arrived in Cambridge as the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature in the Faculty of English.   She previously taught at Queen Mary University of London, and at Princeton in the United States.  She was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2016. 

    She was Parnell Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge from 2013-14, and other visiting positions include: O’Donnell Distinguished Visiting Professor, Keough-Naughton Institute of Irish Studies, University of Notre Dame (2012); Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of British Studies, University of Tokyo (2011); Carole and Gordon Segal Visiting Professor of Irish Literature, Northwestern University (2010); Visiting Fellow, Boston College, Ireland (2007).  She has been a research associate at the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin since 2007.


    Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Random House, 2017).

    The Best Are Leaving: Emigration and Post-War Irish Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

    Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO (London: Profile, 2009; Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2009).

    That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland during the Second World War (London, Faber and Faber, 2007; Boston, Harvard University Press, 2007).

    General Editor, with Bourke, Kilfeather, Luddy, MacCurtain, Meaney, Ní Dhonnchadha, O’Dowd., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions, Vols. 4 & 5. (Cork: Cork University Press in association with Field Day, 2002).

    Reading Paul Muldoon (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1998).

    Improprieties: Politics and Sexuality in Northern Irish Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).