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Irish students at the University of Valladolid, 1585-1781

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Welcome to this virtual exhibit illuminating a corner of the history of Irish exiles in Spain since 1585: their study at the University of Valladolid.

Framed within the new historiographical current that revises the study of the relationships between Spain and Ireland from Continental European sources, this online exhibition provides new insights on Irish exiles and their relation to Spanish universities, based on original source material from the Archives of the Universidad de Valladolid. Its chronological scope incorporates the early modern and modern periods.

Contents and intended audience

Around 1588 moves were already under way to organise a College for the Irish Catholic refugees living in Valladolid. It would be the first one to be established in territory of the Spanish Monarchy. This was due to Fr Thomas White SJ (1556-1622), of Clonmel, believed to have been a resident in the city since about the year 1582. John Coppinger's contemporary account, Mnemosynum (1606-1608), relates that Father White worked to obtain King Philip II's endowment of a college to provide for the accommodation and training into priesthood of the exiles from Ireland. The desired Irish College was set up in 1592 and, although eventually it would open, not in Valladolid, but in Salamanca, it was the students brought from Valladolid who became first to swear their Oaths in the newly-established seminary.

The present exhibition of documents illuminates this unknown history of exiled Irish students at the University of Valladolid. It gives evidence that they were well received in its lecture rooms before 1592 and helps identify the names of those among them who in all probability were taken to Salamanca to inaugurate the new establishment there, since they turn up in the registers of both universities:

  1. Daniel Heffernan (Daniel Haffernan, also Y Finnan), Dioc. Tuam. 1588.
  2. Richard White (Ricardo Biteo), Dioc. Lismore. 1588.
  3. Richard Healy (Ricardo Yalio), of Cork. 1588.
  4. Victor Bradley (Vitor Bralde), Dioc. Waterford. 1588.
  5. James Dooley (Diego Duly), Dioc. Ross. 1588.
  6. James Foley (Diego Folo), Dioc. Cashel. 1588.
  7. Richard Cadam, or McAdam (Ricardo Cadamo), Dioc. Limerick; priest. 1591.
  8. David Dooley (David Dulio), Dioc. Ferns; priest. 1591.
  9. Philip Meagher, or Maher (Felipe Maer), Dioc. Cashel. 1591.
  10. Brian Moriarty (Bernardo Moriarto), Dioc. Ardagh; priest. 1591.

These ten students and priests may have belonged to the elusive English and Irish college that the records inform was constituted around October 1588. Up to 1592, it may have lodged these other university matriculates from Ireland:

  1. William Silibh? (Guielmo Silib)
  2. Conor Regan (Cornelius Reguen)
  3. John Deasy (Juan Dictio)
  4. William McGee (Guillermo Gieedo)
  5. Philip Field (Felipe Fildo)
  6. Edmund Cogan (Edmondo Cogan)
  7. Richard O’Carra (Ricardo Corro)

The exhibit also reveals how the Valladolid university continued to attract students from Ireland throughout the following century. They gathered as an informal group, a school or a seminary. One first attempt to found a college proper in the city came in 1605, supported by the Duke of Lerma, but it is not clear how active it was; it rather seems to have painfully survived into the late 1620s. Since then, the flux of students into the Valladolid University did not grow significantly until the government of the Commonwealth of England was established in Ireland. During the 1640s and 1650s, they seem to have arrived with a focused interest on medical studies. By then, theological training was ensured at the Irish Colleges that had sprouted up in Lisbon, Salamanca, Seville, and Alcalá, and the Valladolid university still lived the legacy of Prof Luis de Mercado, well reputed internationally. Apart from John Hiffernan (1591) and Conlan Tully (1596), three other Irishmen gained a Bachelor’s degree in the subject:

  • Gerald White (Gerardo Vitus), of Kilkenny. 1656.
  • Roderic O'Higgins (Rodrigo Heguin), of Clare, Dioc. Killaloe. 1661.
  • Richard Merrick (Ricardo Manrique). 1683.

From 1660 onwards, the documents point to a sharp decline in the strength of the link that Valladolid maintained with Irish exiled students; the project and need for another Irish college in Castile had vanished. Between 1661 and 1697, scarcely three seem to have attended its university classrooms (Fr James White SJ (1660-1722) stands out among them) and throughout the course of the 1700s, only one. Such decline in matriculation figures is surely owing to the firm rooting that Irish Colleges and their associated communities of exiles had taken in other towns and cities on the Iberian Peninsula, but perhaps more principally to the economic and demographic stagnation experienced by Valladolid and the negative effect that this had on its principal academic institution.

The exhibition is presented to Irish and Spanish historians, as well as anyone interested in Hiberno-Spanish relations throughout the centuries. They are invited to follow the list and links on the side menu, to access images and transcripts. An annotated list of Irish students is also offered to their interest.

Source material

All sources exhibited are held at the Archivo de la Universidad de Valladolid (ES 47186.AUVa). In their great majority, they come from the University's matriculation and degree registers and date between 1585 and 1781:

  • Baccalaureate Matriculation Books (nos 33-34, 43-48, 58)
  • Matriculation Books of the Faculty of Arts (no. 89) and Latinity (no. 186)
  • Registers of Graduates in Medicine (nos. 194, 202) and all Faculties (nos. 195, 199)
  • Students' Records of Studies (Legajo 556)

A small number of student names come from the records at Archivo General de Simancas (AGS). The data that can be retrieved from them, however, is little rewarding with regard to their studies or student life, when compared to those in the AUVa.

The examination into the matriculation in the Jesuit, Franciscan, Dominican, and Agustinian houses in Valladolid is currently ongoing and any updates regarding the University of Valladolid will be incorporated here in the form of annotations to our introductory list.

Editorial policy

Texts are transcribed diplomatically and translated into English. The Hispanised names of students are also given in present-day English and Irish-Gaelic, in the classical orthography of 1200-1650. Abbreviations are expanded in italics.


The exhibition's point of departure was the research work undertaken by Paula das Neves Monsalvo in the course of her period as research assistant at the English Department of the Universidad de Valladolid (2019-2020). She worked under the supervision of Anunciación Carrera de la Red and with the financial support of the Spanish Ministry of Science, Education and Innovation and .

The identification of the Gaelic and English equivalents of the Hispanised personal and place names would not have been possible without the expert and generous contribution of Séamas de Barras and the mediation of Prof Enrique García Hernán, member and head, respectively, of the Misión de Irlanda Database Project.

Credit for this virtual exhibit (full transcripts, text, index, images and metadata) is due to Anunciación Carrera de la Red, Universidad de Valladolid.

All images are reproduced with the licence and permision of the Archivo de la Universidad de Valladolid. Our special thanks are due to its director, Ángeles Moreno López, assistant archivist Noemi Garcimartín Muñoz, and all staff, for having enabled every facility toward the completion of both Paula's research project and this final exhibition.

Since 2021, the research behind this exhibition has been funded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación, Gobierno de España: MIST, Misiones y transmisiones: Intercambios entre la Península Ibérica y las Islas Británicas en la época moderna extensa (PID2020-113516GB-I00).


The digitised files and metadata that will be shared in this exhibition are currently being processed. Last update: 25/08/23.

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