Professor Clair Wills

Honorary Fellow

Professor Clair Wills writes about the social, cultural and literary history of Britain and Ireland in the twentieth century.

Professor Wills works across the disciplines of literature, history, and cultural theory and is keen to explore new genres of academic writing. Her research focuses upon: migration in post-war Europe and the ways in which it gets represented by migrants and others; literature and culture in Northern Ireland; contemporary British fiction; feminism and women’s writing; and the history and experiences of coercive confinement in institutions (including psychiatric institutions) in Britain and Ireland in the twentieth century.

Clair is the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge and a Professorial Fellow of Murray Edward College. She previously taught at Queen Mary University of London, at Princeton, and via numerous visiting fellowships. She has been a research associate at the Centre for Contemporary Irish History, Trinity College Dublin since 2007, and was elected an Honorary Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2016.

In 2017, she was the recipient of the Irish Times International Non-Fiction Book of the Year for her book Lovers and Strangers. She also received the International PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize for History and the American Conference for Irish Studies Michael J. Durkan Prize for her 2008 book That Neutral Island. A keen jazz dancer, Professor Wills set up an interdisciplinary workshop with colleagues in Cambridge to explore the question, ‘What do we write about when we write about dance?’


Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain (London: Allen Lane/Penguin Random House, 2017).

The Best Are Leaving: Emigration and Post-War Irish Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).

Dublin 1916: The Siege of the GPO (London: Profile, 2009; Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2009).

That Neutral Island: A History of Ireland during the Second World War (London, Faber and Faber, 2007; Boston, Harvard University Press, 2007).

General Editor, with Bourke, Kilfeather, Luddy, MacCurtain, Meaney, Ní Dhonnchadha, O’Dowd., The Field Day Anthology of Irish Women’s Writing and Traditions, Vols. 4 & 5. (Cork: Cork University Press in association with Field Day, 2002).

Reading Paul Muldoon (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books, 1998).

Improprieties: Politics and Sexuality in Northern Irish Poetry (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993).

Where Next?