F. S. L. Lyons

Francis Stewart Leland Lyons FBA (11 November 1923 – 21 September 1983) was an Irish historian and academic who was Provost of Trinity College Dublin from 1974–81.[1]


Known as Le among his friends and family, Lyons was born in Derry, Northern Ireland, in 1923, where his father was a bank official. He was born into an Irish Protestant family of Presbyterian and Church of Ireland background. After his birth, his family soon moved to Boyle, County Roscommon, Irish Free State. He was educated at Dover College in Kent and later attended The High School.[1] At Trinity College Dublin, he was elected a Scholar in Modern History and Political Science in 1943.[2]

He was a lecturer in history at the University of Hull and then at Trinity College Dublin. He became the founding Professor of Modern History at the University of Kent in 1964,[2][3] serving also as Master of Eliot College from 1969 to 1972.[4]

Lyons became Provost of Trinity College Dublin in 1974, but relinquished the post in 1981 to concentrate on writing. His work Charles Stewart Parnell won the Heinemann Prize in 1978. He won the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize and the Wolfson Literary Prize for History for his book Culture and Anarchy in Ireland, 1890-1939, published in 1979. He was awarded honorary doctorates by five universities and was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and of the British Academy and was Visiting Professor at Princeton University.[2]

His principal works include Ireland Since the Famine, the standard university textbook for Irish history from the mid-19th to late-20th century, which The Times called "the definitive work of modern Irish history" and a biography of Charles Stewart Parnell.[1]

Lyons was critical of Cecil Woodham-Smith's much-acclaimed history of the Great Irish Famine and has generally been considered among the "revisionist" historians whose political sympathies underplayed the negative role of the British state in events like the Famine.[5]

Following a short illness, Lyons died in Dublin in 1983, just shy of his 60th birthday. He was survived by his wife Jennifer McAlister Lyons, whom he married in 1964, and their two sons.[1]


  • Lyons, F. S. L. (1951). The Irish Parliamentary Party, 1890-1910.
  • (1960). The fall of Parnell, 1890-91. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  • John Dillon: A Biography (1968)
  • Ireland Since the Famine (1971)
  • Charles Stewart Parnell (1977)
  • Culture and Anarchy in Ireland, 1890-1939 (1979) - won the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Memorial Prize


  1. "Professor F. S. L. Lyons – Perceptive Irish Historian". The Times. The Times Digital Archive. 24 September 1983. p. 10.
  2. Ulster History Circle. "Lyons, Francis Stewart Leland 1923-1983". Dictionary of Ulster Biography. Archived from the original on 9 December 2007. Retrieved 9 August 2007.
  3. Townshend, Charles. "Lyons, (Francis Stewart) Leland (1923–1983)", revised, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
  4. Martin, Graham. From Vision to Reality: the Making of the University of Kent at Canterbury, University of Kent at Canterbury, 1990, pg. 259; ISBN 0-904938-03-4
  5. James S. Donnelly Jr, The Great Famine and its interpreters, old and new, historyireland.com; accessed 12 February 2016.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Albert Joseph McConnell
Provost of Trinity College Dublin
Succeeded by
William Arthur Watts
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