Identity Statement for John Marcus O'Sullivan

  • Reference code: IE UCDA LA60
  • Title: Papers of John Marcus O'Sullivan (1881–1948)
  • Dates: 1902–46
  • Level of description: Fonds
  • Extent: 7 boxes
  • Context
  • Content and Structure
  • Conditions of Access and Use

Biographical History

John Marcus O’Sullivan (18 February 1881–9 February 1948) was born in Killarney and educated at St Brendan’s, Killarney and Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare. He entered University College Dublin in 1898 and made an impression both academically and socially. He co-founded the Academy of St Thomas Aquinas with his professor, William Magennis, and was active in the college sodality and the Society of St Vincent de Paul. He contributed to and was on the editorial staff of St Stephen’s. The Jesuit memoir A Page of Irish History 1883–1909 (Dublin: Talbot Press, 1930) observes that decline of the St Thomas Acquinas Academy was due to the ‘absence in Germany of O’Sullivan’. He won a Royal University Studentship in Philosophy and in 1904 went to Bonn and later Heidelberg, where he was awarded the degree Doctor of Philosophy with distinction in 1908 for his thesis Vergleich der Methoden Kants und Hegels auf Grund ihrer Behandlung der Kategorischen Quantität.

He returned to Ireland in 1908 just as the National University was in the process of being established. He did not get the Chair of Philosophy at UCD, which went instead to Monsignor Shine, but was instead appointed Professor of History, a position he held for thirty-eight years until his death. He served on both the Governing Body and University Senate. Following the publication in English of O’Sullivan’s doctoral dissertation in 1909 The Old Criticism and the New Pragmatism, O’Sullivan’s academic work was chiefly in the field of history, on which he contributed many papers to various periodicals on a range of topics.

O’Sullivan was elected to Dáil Éireann as Deputy for Kerry in 1923 (Cumann na nGaedheal) and in 1924 was made Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance. He served as Minister for Education, 1926–32 and as a member of the Executive Council of the Irish Free State, in which capacity he was frequently a delegate to the League of Nations Rapporteur on Public Health in 1928 and President of the Fifth Commission in 1929. His major ministerial achievement was the Vocational Education Act 1930.

Archival History

This collection comprises two accessions, one transferred from the office of the UCD Secretary in 1993 and the other presented by O’Sullivan’s son-in-law, Mr Niall McLoughlin, in 1996.


Scope and Content

Education: printed material related to O’Sullivan’s time at Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität, Bonn, 1902–5, and Ruprecht-Karls-Universität, Heidelberg, 1905–7.

Academic career: printed and handwritten articles, essays, papers, pamphlets, newspapers articles and speeches by O’Sullivan on a range of topics including Irish and European history, Irish and European politics and the history of religion, 1913–46. A small amount of teaching material concerning the scope and organisation of courses.

Political career: Minister for Education: speeches and reports, department and policy issues, 1926–30. 
Extracts from Dáil Debates including contributions by O’Sullivan, 1924–36. Cumann na nGaedhael and Fine Gael party political material incuding Conventions and Ard Fheiseanna, 1923–37. Material relating to election campaigns and Fine Gael in opposition, 1930–43. William T. Cosgrave honorary degree material, 1926, 1929. Delegate to the League of Nations, 1928–30.

Material related to O’Sullivan’s interest in religion: Catholic Emancipation Centenary Celebrations, 1929; St Patrick’s Day Celebrations, Liverpool, 1931; Oxford Catholic Conference, 1925 and Second International Catholic Conference, 1937.

Dissociated material concerning Irish history: mostly printed material concerning the 1916 Rebellion and its aftermath.


  • Access: Available by appointment to holders of a UCD Archives reader's ticket. Produced for consultation in microform.
  • Language: English, some German
  • Finding aid: Descriptive catalogue