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Dr Helen O'Shea

Profile summary

Professional biography

I am a Staff Tutor and Senior Lecturer in History. Originally from Co. Cork in Ireland and based in Edinburgh since 2003, I was awarded my PhD in history from the University of Edinburgh in 2010. I first started working as an Associate Lecturer in History with the Open University in 2012 and since then have also worked as a Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Dundee. I currently cluster manage the A111 and A113 Level 1 modules and am a member of the A225 module team (The British Isles and the Modern World: 1789-1914). I'm also on the production team for our forthcoming module A328 (Empire: Power, Resistance, Legacies).

My research has been supported by grants from the British Academy, the Leverhulme Trust and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Research interests

My research interests include comparative decolonisation, insurgency and counter-insurgency in the British Empire, the British colonial legal service and modern Irish history in transnational and comparative contexts. My first book was published in 2015 under the title Ireland and the End of the British Empire: The Republic and Its Role in the Cyprus Emergency and was reprinted in paperback in 2020 by Bloomsbury Publishing. It has since been updated and translated into Greek and will shortly be published by Aigaion (forthcoming, 2023). I am currently researching emergency law and order in the post-war British Empire using three major emergency periods - Palestine (1945-48), Malaya (1948-60) and Kenya (1952-59) - as case studies. 

Within the OU's research clusters, I'm a member of the International Centre for the History of Crime, Policing and Justice and the Ferguson Centre for African and Asian Studies.

In the field of HE policy, I'm interested in issues of student access, retention and progression in the context of higher education and under-represented adult learners.

Teaching interests

Modern Irish and British History

The Twentieth Century British Empire

Impact and engagement

BBC Consultancy

OU-nominated academic on the BBC Scotland series Women Who Changed Modern Scotland  with Kirsty Wark (aired February 2023).

OU-nominated academic on the BBC Two historical series Union with David Olusoga (aired October 2023).

Public Memory & Commemoration

“‘The Darkest Blot on Ireland’s History’: the Easter Rising, Execution and Scottish Newspaper Reportage”. Alternative 1916, Conference of Irish Historians in Britain, February 2016. Available at

Committee Membership

I serve as a committee member of the Open History Society Edinburgh

External collaborations

I'm a project member of the OpenLearn 'Women and Workplace Struggles: Scotland 1900-2022' project in collaboration with the Scottish Trades Union Congress.


Ireland and the End of the British Empire: The Republic and its Role in the Cyprus Emergency (2020-03-19)
O'Shea, Helen
ISBN : 9781350156340 | Publisher : Bloomsbury | Published : London

Ireland and the End of the British Empire: The Republic and its Role in the Cyprus Emergency (2014-10-16)
O'Shea, Helen
ISBN : 9781780767529 | Publisher : I.B. Tauris | Published : London

‘Personally I Think it Would be Positively Hilarious’: The European Convention, the Cyprus Question and Frank Aiken’s State of Exception (2014-04-14)
O'Shea, Helen
In: Kelly, Stephen and Evans, Bryce eds. Frank Aiken: Nationalist and Internationalist (pp. 233-249)
ISBN : 978-0716532392 | Publisher : Irish Academic Press | Published : Kildare

"Cyprus on the Brain": Irish Identity, the Imperial Imagination and the Beginnings of British Cyprus. (2013)
O'Shea, Helen
In: Georgis, Giorgos and Kazamias, Georgios eds. Ireland-Cyprus: Parallel Journeys. Common Aspirations (pp. 212-245)
ISBN : 9789963691920 | Publisher : En tipis Publications | Published : Nicosia

Irish Law Graduates, the colonial legal service and the Cyprus Emergency, 1955-59 (2012-11-23)
O'Shea, Helen
In: Dickson, David; Pyz, Justyna and Shepard, Christopher eds. Irish Classrooms and the British Empire: Imperial Contexts in the Origins of Modern Education (pp. 223-230)
ISBN : 978-1846823497 | Publisher : Four Courts Press | Published : Dublin

Colonial Reparations, Collective Redress and the Colonial Legal Service in the Post-War British Empire (2016-11)
O'Shea, Helen
In : 3rd Academic International Conference on Interdisciplinary Legal Studies (1-3 Mar 2016, University of Oxford) (pp. 16-24)