Dublin History Festival’s Big Weekend: From Ireland to the Mediterranean

This year, the Dublin Festival of History featured an array of lectures, guides and exhibits throughout the city. Much like modern Dublin, the festival featured history not just centred on the city but on the wider world itself.

The festival is ongoing, and its recent ‘Big Weekend’ featured many lectures from prominent experts across a multitude of historic fields. Here is a look into some of the many put on.

Paul Duffy – Ireland and the Crusades. Photo: Sean Norman.

Paul Duffy offered a fascinating insight into Ireland and its people’s involvement in the crusading movement and crusade rhetoric on the island.

He compared the Albigensian crusades of Toulouse to that of the English conquest of Gaelic Ireland: Hugh de Lacy, the Irish Lord of Meath, and the Earl of Ulster were key figures in both ‘crusades’.

Exploring de Lacy and his escape from Ireland after King John’s invasion of the eastern seaboard, Duffy told a fascinating tale of the man and his exploits in France as he helps defend against the count of Toulouse’s forces and was rewarded with his own lands as tribute.

Audience member Martin O’Neill said it was “one of the finest illustrated talks of the festival”.

Katherine Pangonis – Twilight Cities: Lost Capitals of the Mediterranean. Photo: Sean Norman

Katherine Pangonis brought the audience on a journey throughout the ancient Mediterranean and its various capitals from Tyre to Antioch.

The lecture featured many cities including Tyre, Carthage, Syracuse, Ravenna and Antioch, giving a brief overview of each of them and their importance in history – whether it be the purple dye trade of Tyre, Syracuse’s importance in the transitions of religion within the greater Mediterranean coast or Plato’s visit to the city and his attempt to influence and teach Dion and Dionysus who both ruled the city.

Seda Grigoryan, 36, said she found the lecture and book “especially important because it manages to connect so much of the Mediterranean cultures to one another”. 

Frank McDonough and Paul McCann – The Weimar Years. Photo: Sean Norman

Frank McDonough told the story of Germany’s pre-Nazi Weimar years as the rather tragic downfall of a progressive country ruined by the failings of politicians and the rise of fascism.

The lecture, despite being a retelling of history from the 1920s, felt hauntingly familiar given the rise of extreme right opinions in modern Europe and America.

In his new book on the period, McDonough said, “Adolf Hitler doesn’t enter my story till page 89. He wasn’t an important figure, but a fringe politician that nobody took seriously,” McDonough said. 

Listener Simon O’Brien said: “it was an eye opener, so much changed in such little time – it’s hard not to think of it as an allegory for today.”


The Dublin Festival of History 2023 began on September 25 and runs until October 15. The ‘Big Weekend’ took place at Printworks, Dublin Castle, from September 29 until October 1.

For more information on the Dublin Festival of History, click here.

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