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Robert Fitzroy Foster FBA FRHistS FRSL (born 16 January 1949) - generally known as Roy Foster - is the Carroll Professor of Irish History at Hertford College, Oxford in the UK.


Background and education

Born in Waterford, Roy Foster is the son of two teachers: Betty Foster (née Fitzroy), a primary teacher, and 'Fef' (Ernest) Foster, a teacher of Irish. Foster attended Newtown School, now a multi-denominational school, originally founded as a Quaker school in the late 18th century. Foster won a scholarship to attend St. Andrew's School for a year before reading history at Trinity College, Dublin. He was awarded an M.A. and Ph.D. by Trinity College, where he was taught by T. W. Moody and F.S.L. Lyons. Prior to his appointment to the Carroll professorship, he was Professor of Modern British History at Birkbeck College, University of London, and held visiting fellowships at St Antony's College, Oxford, the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, and Princeton University. Based in London as well as at Hertford College in Oxford, Foster visits Ireland frequently. He has been married to the novelist and critic Aisling Foster (née Donelan) since 1972 and they have two children. His work is generally published under the name R. F. Foster. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature [1].

Foster is considered one of the foremost "revisionist" Irish historians. As well as early biographies of Charles Stewart Parnell and Lord Randolph Churchill, Foster is the editor of The Oxford History of Ireland (1989) and author of Modern Ireland: 1600-1972 (1988) as well as several books of essays. More recently, Foster has produced a much acclaimed two part biography of William Butler Yeats which was awarded the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, and also collaborated with Fintan Cullen on a National Portrait Gallery exhibition, 'Conquering England: the Irish in Victorian London'.


  • Charles Stewart Parnell: The Man and His Family (Sussex: Harvester Wheatsheaf 1976; NJ: Humanities Press 1979)
  • ‘To The Northern Counties Station: Lord Randolph Churchill and the Prelude to the Orange Card’, in F. S. L. Lyons & R. A. J. Hawkins, ed., Ireland Under the Union: Varieties of Tension: Essays in Honour of T. W. Moody (Oxford Clarendon Press 1980)
  • Lord Randolph Churchill: A Political Life (Oxford: OUP 1981)
  • Modern Ireland 1600-1972 (London: Allen Lane; NY Viking/Penguin 1988) [with introductory essay on ‘Varieties of Irishness’]
  • ed., The Oxford Illustrated History of Modern Ireland (OUP 1989; [rev. edn. as] The Oxford History of Ireland, OUP 1992)
  • W. B. Yeats, A Life, Vol. I: The Apprentice Mage, 1865-1914 (OUP March 1997)
  • The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press 2001)
  • W. B. Yeats - A Life, II: The Arch-Poet 1915-1939 (Oxford: OUP 2003).
  • Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change from 1970 (Oxford: OUP 2008).

Essay collections

  • Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish History and English History (London: Allen Lane/Penguin 1993; rep. 1995)
  • The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making It Up in Ireland (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press 2001).


  • Political Novels and Nineteenth-Century History (Winchester: King Alfred’s College 1982)
  • ed., Hubert Butler, The Sub-Prefect Should Have Held His Tongue (Dublin: Lilliput Press 1990; rep. London: Penguin 1992), and Do., in French trans. as L’Envahisseur est venu en pantoufles (1995)
  • The Story of Ireland: an Inaugural Lecture delivered before the University of Oxford on 1 Dec. 1994 (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1995).

Additional Reading

  • Interpreting Irish History: The Debate on Historical Revisionism, Ciaran Brady (ed.), Irish Academic Press 1994.

Notes and references

  1. ^




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