William O'Reilly


Trinity Hall
Cambridge CB2 1TJ

Office phone: +44-12237 65956


University Lecturer in early modern History
Director of Graduate Studies (2011-2014)
Associate Director, Centre for History and Economics

Other Website:


William O'Reilly has worked on a range of topics in early modern European and Atlantic history, and is particularly interested in the history of European migration, colonialism and imperialism. His current research project, with the working title "Surviving empire: The translation of imperial context in a globalizing world, 1550-1800," explores the inter-relationship of European imperialisms from the later sixteenth century to the French revolution.

Since taking his DPhil at Oxford in 2003, Dr O'Reilly has served as an editor of the Historical Journal (Cambridge University Press) (2006-9) and of Atlantic Studies (Routledge) (2004-9). He serves on the Editorial Boards of the Historical Journal and Themes in Migrations. William O'Reilly has been a Visiting Fellow at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences in Budapest, and at the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna; a DAAD Fellow at the University of Hamburg and Erasmus lecturer at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Austria and the Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany. In 2003-4 he was a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Cambridge, before becoming a Research Fellow of the Centre for History and Economics in 2004, working on the Centre's project on 'Exchanges of Ideas'.

In 2006 Dr O'Reilly was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize for his work in European and Atlantic History. He was visiting research fellow at Harvard University and at the Center for History and Economics, Harvard, in 2008-9.

In 2013, he was awarded a Pilkington Prize for excellence in teaching.

Subject groups/Research projects

Early Modern History
Economic, Social and Cultural History
Modern European History

Research Interests

  • Early Modern central and east-European History
  • History of migration, colonialism and imperialism
  • The Atlantic world

Research Supervision

William O'Reilly welcomes enquiries from prospective students wishing to work on any aspect of early modern European and Atlantic history, c.1450-c.1815.
PhD theses supervised include:

  • Neval Berber, Bosnia's Muslims in English Language Accounts, 17th-19th centuries (published as: Unveiling Bosnia-Herzegovina in British Travel Literature (1844-1912), Pisa University Press, Pisa, 2010)
  • Claire Healy, Migration to Buenos Aires and Argentina, 1776-1890 (completed, 2006)
  • Maria-Fernanda Valencia Suarez, The Aztecs through the lens of English imperial aspiration, 1519-1713 (completed, 2011)
  • Andrea Cobern, Negotiating the Reformation in Habsburg Hungary, c.1520-c.1620  (completed, 2013)
  • Edmond Smith, The Networks of the East India Company in Early Modern London, c. 1599-1625 (in progress)
  • Mélanie Lamotte, Colour prejudice in the early modern French empire, c. 1635-1767 (in progress)
  • Jonathan Green, Edmund Burke in Germany, 1791-1848 (in progress)
  • Rhys Jones, George Washington, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the improvisation of power, 1775-1815 (in progress)
  • Richard Morris, Religion, Identity, and State Formation: Festivals and Festival Culture in the German Reich, 1500-1650
    (in progress)
  • Francesco Morriello, British and French Imperial Communication Networks in the Atlantic World, 1763-1804 (in progress)

MPhil dissertations supervised include:

  • Anglo-Indian contact in the reign of James I (2007)
  • Mary Habsburg - Queen of Hungary and Widow of Mohács (2008)
  • A Sixteenth-century English merchant community in Seville (2008)
  • Migration in the Early Modern Radnorshire c.1500-c.1700 (2008)
  • David Hume, Alexander Hamilton and the Early American Republic (2010)
  • George Oxenden and the New Merchants (2010)
  • Colour prejudice in the Guadeloupe archipelago 1635-1759 (2011)
  • Concepts of Europe in seventeenth-century Sweden and England (2011)
  • Josephinism, orientalism, and antiquarianism in the life and work of count Charles Reviczky, 1737-1793 (2012)
  • The memory of Saint Louis and the kingship of Louis XIV (2012)
  • A.C. Pigou and Personal Reactions to Paradigmatic Changes in the Economics Profession, 1908-1959 (2013)
  • Beethoven and the 'sound' of revolution in Napoleonic and Restoration Vienna, 1799-1827 (2013)
  • Nature, Religion, and Identity in the Court Festivals of the Protestant Union, c.1609-1619 (2013)
  • Burke and Kant on Theory and Praxis (2013, winner of the Skinner Prize)


  • European History, 1450-1760 (Paper 16)
  • European History, 1715-1890 (Paper 17)
  • Lectures on 'The Atlantic World, 1400-1800'; 'Migration, 1400-1815', inter alia
  • Co-convenor of Part II, Paper 14: 'Material Culture in early modern Europe'
  • Convenor of Part I Themes & Sources: 'Migrants, 1000-2000'

Other Professional Activities

  • Editor, Atlantic Studies (2004-2009)
  • Reviews editor, The Historical Journal (2006-2009)
  • Editor, Themes in Migration
  • Associate Director, Centre for History and Economics
  • Senior Research Associate, Centre for Financial History
  • Fellow, Royal Historical Society
  • Fellow, Royal Society of Arts
  • Research Partner, Asia and Europe in a Global Context project, University of Heidelberg

Key Publications

  • Selling Souls. The international trade in German migrants, 1680-1780, Cambridge University Press (2015, forthcoming)
  • The Atlantic World, 1450-1800, Routledge (2014, forthcoming). ISBN 9780415467049
  • 'Movements of People in the Atlantic World, 1450-1850', in Nicholas Canny and Philip Morgan (eds.), The Oxford History of the Atlantic World, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 305-23.
  • 'Lost chances of the House of Habsburg', Austrian History Yearbook, 40 (1), 2009, pp. 53-70.
  • 'Charles Vallancey and the Military Itinerary of Ireland', Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 106C, 2006, pp. 125-217.
  • 'Border, Buffer and Bulwark. The Historiography of the Military Frontier, 1521-1881', in Steven G. Ellis and Raingard Eßer (eds.), Frontiers and the Writing of History, 1500-1850, Hanover (Wehrhahn), 2006, pp. 229-244.
  • William O'Reilly and Andrea Penz, Freiheit und Unabhänigkeit als imperative Postulate. Leykam, Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, 2006. ISBN: 3-7011-0061-6.
  • 'The Atlantic World and Germany: A Consideration', in: Renate Pieper and Peer Schmidt (eds.), Latin America and the Atlantic World. El Mundo atlántico y América Latina (1500-1850), Böhlau, Cologne, 2005, pp. 35-56.
  • 'Der Primas von England und der Reichserzkanzler und Kurfürst von Mainz. Vergleichende Betrachtungen zu ihrer Rolle und Bedeutung im 16. Jahrhundert', in: Peter C. Hartmann and Ludolf Pelizaeus (eds.), Forschungen zu Kurmainz und dem Reichserzkanzler, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, 2005, pp. 71-88.
  • 'Emigration from the Habsburg Monarchy and Salzburg to the New World, 1700-1848' in: Wiener Zeitschrift zur Geschichte der Neuzeit, 5.Jg. 2005, Heft 1, pp.7-20.
  • 'Zivilisierungsmission und das Netz des Empire. Sprache, Landvermessung und die Förderung des Wissens 1780-1820' in: Boris Barth and Jürgen Osterhammel (Hg.), Zivilisierungsmissionen. Imperiale Weltverbesserung seit dem 18. Jahrhundert, UVK Verlagsgesellschaft mbH, Konstanz, 2005, pp. 101-124.
  • 'Genealogies of Atlantic History', Atlantic Studies, vol.1, no.1 (2004), pp. 66-84.
  • 'Divide et impera: Race, Ethnicity and Administration in early 18th-Century Habsburg Hungary', in Gudmundur Hálfdánarson and Anne Katherine Isaacs (eds.), Minorities in Europe, Florence, 2003, pp. 100-129.
  • 'Migration, Recruitment and the Law: Europe Responds to the Atlantic World', in Horst Pietschmann (ed.), Atlantic History. History of the Atlantic System 1580-1830. Proceedings of the Joachim Jungius Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften/Universität Hamburg History of the Atlantic System Conference, Vandenhoek & Rupprecht Verlag, Göttingen, 2002, pp. 119-137.
  • 'Turks, Indians and the Margins of Europe', Belleten, Dört Ayde Bir Çikar (Journal of the Turkish Academy of Arts and the Sciences), vol LXV, no. 242 (April 2001), pp. 243-256.
  • 'The Naturalisation Act of 1709 and the Settlement of Germans in Britain, Ireland and the Colonies', Randolph Vigne and Charles Littleton (eds.), From Strangers to Citizens. The integration of immigrant communities in Britain, Ireland and Colonial America, 1550-1750, Sussex Academic Press, 2001, pp. 292-502.
  • 'Conceptualising America in Early Modern Central Europe', Explorations in Early American Culture. Pennsylvania History, vol. 65 (1998), pp. 101-121.

Other Publications

  • 'A life in exile. Charles Habsburg (1685-1740) between Spain and Austria' in Philip Mansel and Torsten Riotte (eds.), Monarchy and exile: the politics of the absent ruler from Marie de Medici to Wilhelm II (1631-1941), Palgrave, 2010
  • 'Orientalist Reflections: Asia and the Pacific in the Making of late EighteenthCentury Ireland', New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies, vol. 6, no. 2 (December 2004), pp. 127-147.
  • 'Protestantische Kultur in England und Irland im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert', in Peter Claus Hartmann (ed.), Religion und Kultur im Europa des 17. und 18. Jahrhunderts, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main (2004), pp. 57-72.
  • 'Bridging the Atlantic. Opportunity, Information and Choice in Long-Range German Migration in the Eighteenth Century', in Walter G. Rödel and Helmut Schmahl (eds.), Menschen zwischen zwei Welten. Auswanderung, Ansiedlung, Akkulturation, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag, Trier, 2002, pp. 25-44.
  • 'Agenten, Werbung und Reisemodalitäten. Die Auswanderung ins Temescher Banat im 18. lahrhundert', Matthias Beer and Dittmar Dahlmann (eds.), Migration nach Ostund Südosteuropa vom 18. Bis zum Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, Ursachen-FormenVerlauf-Ergebnis, Schriftenreihe des Instituts für Donauschwabische Geschichte und Landeskunde, vol.IV, 1999, pp.109-120.
  • 'Dutch Writings on Southern Ireland in the 1790s', Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol. 104 (1999), pp. 21-36.