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Current Projects

Edel was appointed Chief Executive Officer of The Discovery Programme in April 2013. Under her guidance, the organization has undergone a review of its governance and of its approach to long-term projects. These changes are in line with The Discovery Programme’s Strategic Plan 2014-2017 that was launched in December 2013. She is a member of the Royal Irish Academy Standing Committee on Archaeology. She held a Visiting Fellowship in All Souls College Oxford, September to December 2016 and is an adjunct professor in the UCC School of History.


 Edel is a medieval historian and Celtic scholar who has worked throughout her career on multidisciplinary projects including as Research Fellow of The Discovery Programme’s Tara Research Project, Academic Project Manager of the UCD Mícheál Ó Cleirigh Institute for Irish History & Civilization, as Principal Investigator of the INSTAR Mapping Death project (www.mappingdeathdb.ie) and as Co-Investigator of the Irish Research Council Monastic Ireland Landscape and Settlement project (www.monastic.ie).

Research Interests

Her scholarly interests range through various topics including:

• The nature of monasticism in Ireland AD900-1300 (monograph currently in progress)
• Death and burial in early Ireland: a reflection of religious beliefs and conversion
• Kingship in late prehistoric and early medieval Ireland in a world context
• The historiography of history writing in Ireland
• The intellectual history of medieval and early modern Ireland: creating a lexicon of terms and material culture
Applied Research
• The communication of archaeology, history and landscape through modern media
• The development of a dynamic policy for the cultural heritage sector in Ireland
• Creating an effective bridge between the humanities and sciences in Ireland
• Extending philanthropy to the arts and culture in Ireland


Bhreathnach, E. 2014 Ireland in the medieval world AD400-1000. Landscape, kingship and religion (Four Courts Press, Dublin)
Bhreathnach, E. 1995 Tara: a select bibliography (Discovery Programme/Royal Irish Academy, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. And Newman, C. 1995 Tara (Government Publications, Dublin) A guide to Tara published in English & Irish.
Books edited & co-edited
Schot, R., Bhreathnach, E. and Newman, C. 2011 The landscape of kingship and cult: text and archaeology (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E., McCafferty, J. and MacMahon, J. 2009 The Irish Franciscans 1534-1990 (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
2007 The Four Masters and their world (Wordwell Books, Dublin). Edited with Dr Bernadette Cunningham, Royal Irish Academy.
Bhreathnach, E. 2005 The kingship and landscape of Tara (Discovery Programme/Four Courts Press, Dublin). 536pp.

Chapters in books and collected essays
Bhreathnach, E. 2015 Observations on the Book of Durrow memorandum. In J. Carey, K. Murray & C. Ó Dochartaigh (eds), Sacred histories. A festschrift for Máire Herbert (Dublin, 2015), 14-21.
Bhreathnach, E. 2015 Observations on the context and landscape of the West Ossary crosses. In E. Purcell, P. MacCotter, J. Nyhan & J. Sheehan (eds), Clerics, kings and Vikings. Essays on medieval Ireland in honour of Donnchadh Ó Corráin (Dublin, 2015), 11-20.
Bhreathnach, E. 2014 Tara and Cashel. Manifestations of the centre of the cosmos in the North and South. In J. Borsje, A. Dooley, S. Mac Mathúna & G. Toner (eds), Celtic Cosmology. Perspectives from Ireland and Scotland(Toronto, 2014), 165-85.
Bhreathnach, E. 2013 The world of medieval Irish learning. In S. Duffy (ed.), Princes, prelates and poets in medieval Ireland. Essays in honour of Katharine Simms (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
O’Brien, E. and Bhreathnach, E. 2011 Irish boundary ferta, their physical manifestation and historical context. In F. Edmonds & P. Russell (eds), Tome. Studies in medieval Celtic history and law in honour of Thomas Charles-Edwards (Boydell Press, Woodbridge)
Bhreathnach, E. 2011 Transforming kingship & & cult: the provincial ceremonial capitals in early medieval Ireland. In R. Schot, C. Newman & E. Bhreathnach (eds), The landscape of kingship and cult: text and archaeology (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. 2009 Ireland, c. 900-c.1000. In P. Stafford (ed.), A companion to the early Middle Ages: Britain and Ireland, c. 500-1100, 269-85. (Blackwell Publishers, Oxford).
Bhreathnach, E. 2008 The Claidh Dubh: a study in the function and reuse of a prehistoric linear earthwork. In M. Doody (ed.), The Ballyhoura Hills project, 571-88. (Discovery Programme/Wordwell Books, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. 2007 Perceptions of kingship in early medieval Irish vernacular literature. In L. Doran & J. Lyttleton (eds), Lordship in medieval Ireland. Image and reality, 21-46. (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. 2004 Medieval sub-kingdoms of Brega: the kingships of Calatruim, Déssi Breg, Mugdornae Breg and Uí Maic Uais Breg. In A. Mac Shamhráin (ed.), The Island of St Patrick. Church and ruling dynasties in Fingal and Meath, 400-1148, 38-51. (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. and Ó Floinn, R. 2003 Ireland: culture and society. In S.H. Rigby (ed.), A companion to Britain in the later Middle Ages, 558-95. (Oxford).
Bhreathnach, E. 2002 Two contributors to the Book of Leinster: Bishop Finn of Kildare and Gilla na Náem Ua Duinn. In M. Richter & J-M Picard (eds), Ogma. Essays in Celtic Studies in honour of Proinséas Ní Chatháin, 105-11. (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. 2001 The cults of local Leinster saints. In J. Carey, M. Herbert & P.Ó Riain (eds), Saints and scholars: studies in Irish hagiography, 250-67. (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. 2001 Abbesses, minor dynasties and kings in clericatu: perspectives of Ireland, 700-850. In M. P. Brown & C. A. Fahr (eds), Mercia: an Anglo-Saxon kingdom in Europe, 113-25. Studies in the early history of Europe. (Leicester University Press).
Bhreathnach, E. 2001 The cultural and political milieu of the deposition and manufacture of the hoard discovered at Reerasta Rath, Ardagh, Co. Limerick. In M. Redknap et al (eds), Pattern and purpose in Insular Art, 15-23. (Oxford).
Bhreathnach, E. 2000 Kings, the kingship of Leinster and the regnal poems of laídshenchas Laigen: a reflection of dynastic politics in Leinster, 650-1150. In A.P. Smyth (ed.), Seanchas. Studies in early and medieval Irish archaeology, history and literature in honour of Francis J. Byrne, 299-312. (Four Courts Press, Dublin).

Peer reviewed articles
Bhreathnach, E. 2012 Benedictine influence in Ireland in the late eleventh and twelfth century: a reflection. Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies 1 (2012) (Brepols). Bhreathnach, E. 2011 The friars and the vernacular in the Irish tradition. Irish Historical Studies 37 no. 147, 357-75.
Bhreathnach, E. 2006 In retrospect: introduction to George Petrie’s ‘On the History and Antiquities of Tara Hill’.Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 106, 409 – 16.

In press
Bhreathnach, E. Summer 2017 The kings of Dublin and Leinster before the Battle of Clontarf. In S. Duffy (ed.) Medieval Dublin XVI (Four Courts Press, Dublin).
Bhreathnach, E. October 2017 Ireland before AD1000: Communities and their Landscapes. In B. Smith (ed.), Cambridge History of Ireland Volume I (CUP).

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