In the midst of the world’s first global war, an Irish wine ship returning home from the French port of Bordeaux was captured at sea by a British warship.
More than 250 years later, the mailbag from that ship — the Two Sisters of Dublin — was discovered in January, 2011, at the British National Archives by a New York University researcher, Professor Thomas M. Truxes. These remarkable letters, most of them opened for the first time, shed light on the significant Irish presence in Europe during the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763).
The mail carried aboard the Two Sisters is the basis of a new exhibition, “The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters, 1757: The Voice of an Irish Community Abroad,” that will run from October 24 through April 1 at the Mamdouha S. Bobst Gallery, NYU Bobst Library, 70 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Pl.), ground floor.
“The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters” exhibit is free and open to the public daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Photo ID is required to enter the library. The exhibition, along with a related academic conference, is presented by Glucksman Ireland House, NYU’s center for Irish and Irish-American Studies, as part of its 20th anniversary celebration.
The presentation at Bobst Library draws on world-class collections of art and never-before-seen historical documents. At the heart of the exhibit is a collection of letters that take readers into a private and intimate world inhabited by ordinary men and women separated from their homeland by war.
The themes are universal: There are students asking their parents for money, and fathers chastising their children for being disobedient or lazy. There are love letters, letters filled with petty gossip, and letters expressing the frustrations of Irish prisoners of war languishing in French jails.
The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters “reinforce a common humanity across time — the people we see in these letters are no different from people we know today . . . so once you get beyond the handwriting, 250 years just melts away,” remarks Truxes, clinical associate professor of Irish studies and history, who was researching overseas trade in colonial America when he made his fortuitous archival discovery.
The letters are now available as a book: The Bordeaux-Dublin Letters, 1757: Correspondence of an Irish Community Abroad has just been published by the British Academy and Oxford University Press. The volume features the complete set of 125 letters, including translations of the 25 written in French, together with illustrations, maps, annotations, a comprehensive index, and a substantial critical introduction to assist readers in contextualizing and interpreting the letters. The book is co-edited by Trinity College Professor Emeritus L. M. Cullen; NYU’s John Shovlin, an associate professor of history; and Professor Truxes.
In connection with the opening of the exhibit, NYU’s Glucksman Ireland House (1 Washington Mews, just off University Place, New York, N.Y.) will host a two-day international conference featuring renowned authorities on the world of 1757. The event will take place on October 25–26 (starting at 9:45 a.m.) and will explore historical issues raised by this extraordinary collection of documents.
For further conference details, please visit Glucksman Ireland House or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.