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Louis Cullen has been at the forefront of Irish historical studies for more than fifty years. One could say Professor Cullen created modern Irish economic and social history before going on to become a distinguished historian of France, Scotland and Japan as well.

From the start, he adopted a comparative and transnational approach to economic and trade history, while also broadening his research focus to the social history of early modern Ireland. This approach allowed Professor Cullen to develop original arguments at a time when the study of Irish history was largely dominated by political historians.

His work profoundly challenged established views on major questions – including Ireland’s commercial relationship with Britain and Irish connections with the Continent. The monograph Anglo-Irish Trade 1660-1800, published in 1968 at the beginning of Louis Cullen’s career, remains a foundational text for any study of eighteenth century Ireland.

In addition, Professor Cullen also engaged in pioneering studies of Franco-Irish trade in the eighteenth century. His work on a significant (and hitherto neglected) eighteenth-century Irish merchant community in the cognac and brandy trade in western France was important in itself and also made a substantial contribution to French history. This won him the admiration of leading French Annales historians and led to a major collaboration with the famed Centre for Historical Research at the School for advanced studies in Social Sciences (École des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales – publisher of the Annales). At the same time, he developed a strong comparative expertise in Scottish history, similarly pioneering links with the demographic and social historians of that country.

Never shying away from new research challenges, Professor Cullen pioneered the study and teaching of Japanese history at Trinity College, well before this was fashionable outside specialist institutions in Britain and Ireland. He learnt Japanese and embarked on a new research career in Japanese archives, becoming one of the leading international scholars of pre-modern Japanese history. Amongst other works, this led to a major History of Japan: 1582-1941: Internal and External Worlds, published by Cambridge in 2003.

The vitality and creativity of Louis Cullen’s scholarly career is indicated by the fact that he continues to work in all his fields of interest, cross-fertilizing each of them with questions and insights drawn from the others.

Louis Cullen taught in the Department of Modern History (later the Department of History) at Trinity College Dublin from 1963 until his retirement in 2003, and as Professor from 1979. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 1975. Amongst his many accolades, he holds honorary doctorates from the Sorbonne, the University of Strathclyde, Queen’s University Belfast and the National University of Ireland. He is a Senior Fellow Emeritus of Trinity College and a corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. In addition, he was awarded the Ordre des palmes academiques (the national order of France for distinguished academics).

All these honours are testament to Professor Cullen’s reputation as an international historian of singular versatility.