My research fields are Irish history and American ethnic and religious history. For my dissertation, I studied the temperance movement in Ireland at the time of the Great Famine. My focus was on the campaign launched by Father Theobald Mathew to give the total abstinence pledge to as many Irishmen and women as he could.
As Father Mathew and many other leading Irish figures of the mid-19th century were ardently anti-slavery and were friendly with America's leading abolitionists, I then decided to study Irish and Irish-American attitudes towards slavery. One of my projects was chronicling Frederick Douglass' tour of Ireland, which occurred during the famine. Douglass was appalled by Ireland's desperate poverty and declared that the scenes he witnessed in Dublin reminded him of the life he had lived as a slave. My other project was trying to understand why Irish Americans were so hostile to the antislavery movement even though they had experienced such hardship in their homelands.
Most recently, I have been engaged in local history. I am presently looking at the Catholic Church's role in Newport from the time of the French occupation (1780) through the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s. Newport is well known for its Baptists and Quakers and for its long established Jewish community. However, the city has also been home to large populations of Irish, Italian and Portuguese Catholics who have made substantial contributions to its civic, cultural and spiritual life.