Emyr Estyn Evans and the cultural identity of Northern Ireland 1929-1969

  • Lauren Ferguson

Student thesis: Masters ThesisMaster of Philosophy


This thesis studies the life, works and enduring legacy of Prof. Estyn Evans, Professor of Geography at Queens University Belfast from 1929 – 1969. It presents original research into the achievements of an academic whose contributions extended far beyond the walls of the university in which he spent his career, reaching into the communities he studied not just at the time, but leaving a legacy which endures to the present day in his approach to the folk studies, culture and heritage of Northern Ireland. This thesis examines the published works of Evans, using secondary material to place his publications in context through developing an understanding of the physical, social, and academic environment within he was located, and the influences of his childhood in Wales which can be seen throughout his work. Before examining his published works, it addresses alternative theories of culture and identity, in order to assess which, if any, Evans could be aligned with. Emphasis is placed on the contributions which Evans made to the development of the field of Geography and indeed his approach to the concept of cultural identity framed within the regional setting of a nine county province of Ulster. His insights of the many issues surrounding concepts of Irishness and regional identity can be seen throughout his published work. The interdisciplinary nature of his scholarly contributions are examined as he effortlessly weaves Geography, Anthropology, Archaeology and Folklife Studies, demonstrating their fundamental role in the development of his theories of regional cultural identity and its importance in the study of not only Geography, but also within the wider social sciences. From this academic stand point, the practical impact of his work can be most clearly demonstrated in the establishment of the Ulster Folk Museum. This museum arguably provides the most enduring legacy of Evans, representative of his belief that education of common bonds and rural traditions were key to addressing the issues of division within Northern Ireland.
Date of AwardJul 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorMarie Coleman (Supervisor) & Sean O'Connell (Supervisor)


  • Estyn Evans
  • N. Ireland
  • Ulster
  • Museum
  • Folk Studies
  • Irish Studies

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