Donal McCracken


Fellow: Royal Historical Society, Senior Professor: History

Donal McCracken

Email Address

Degrees Held

BA (Hons), D.Phil. (University of Ulster)

Originally from Ireland, Donal McCracken has been an academic for over 40 years, with a research interest divided between environmental history, media history and Irish history including the Irish diaspora in Africa. The 18 books to his credit include ten sole-authored, three joint-authored and five edited. He was Dean of Humanities between 1994 and 2009, and subsequently at various times was acting College Dean of Research, Dean of Arts and head of Psychology. For seven years he was also chair of the Alan Paton Centre and Struggle Archive Advisory Board. He has been named South African Genealogist of the Year and won the Zululand Historical Society Award. He was the founding chair of the Durban Botanic Gardens Trust; is a former president of the Irish History Students’ Association; and was Irish Universities’ Debating Champion.


Books published

  • Napoleon’s Garden Island: Lost and old gardens of St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean, accepted for publication by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • You will dye at midnight: Threatening letters in Victorian Ireland, Eastwood Books, Dublin (2021).                            ISBN:9781913934163
  • Nicholson: How an angry Irishman became the hero of Delhi.
    The History Press Ireland, Stroud, UK, (2018), 368pp.
    Printed edition: ISBN: 978 0 7509 8810 0
    Kindle edition: ISBN 978 0 7509 89749
  • (Ed.) Media and empire (with Ruth Teer-Tomaselli). Routledge, London & New York, hbk, ISBN: 978-1-138-18432-9 (2016) & pkb, ISBN 13: 978-1-138-30935-7 (2017). [Articles published in Critical Arts, 28.6/29.1, 2014/2015].
  • Teddy Luther’s War: The diary of a German-American in an Irish-Boer commando, 30̊ South Publishers, Johannesburg, 2013, 168pp. ISBN: 978-1-920143-76-3.
  • (Ed.) ‘Essays and source material for Southern African-Irish Studies’, as vol. IV, Southern African-Irish Studies, (2012), 188 pp. ISBN 978-0-620-52008-9.
  • Inspector Mallon: Buying Irish patriotism for a five-pound note, Irish Academic Press, Dublin and London, 2009, 248pp. ISBN 978 0 7165 2993 4 (cloth) and 978 0 7165 2994 1 (paper).
  • Saving the Zululand Wilderness: An early struggle for nature conservation, Jacana Media, Johannesburg and Cape Town, 2008, 176pp, ISBN 978-1-77009-596-0.
  • South Africa’s Irish Heritage, 1787-2007, South African Heritage Council, 2008, 96pp.
  • Forgotten Protest: Ireland and the Anglo-Boer wars, Ulster Historical Foundation, Belfast, 2003, 206pp, 1-903688-18-3, [Revised 2nd edition of The Irish Pro-Boers, 1877-1902].
  • A history of Mitchell Park and Jameson Park, and of the Zoological Gardens, Durban, Durban Parks Department, 2001, 110pp, ISBN 0-9584125-3-7.
  • MacBride’s Brigade: Irish commandos in the Anglo-Boer war, Four Courts Press, Dublin 1999, 208pp, ISBN 1-85182-499-5.
  • Gardens of Empire: Botanical institutions of the Victorian British empire, Cassell Academic/University of Leicester Press, London and Washington, 1997, 241pp, ISBN 0-7185-0109-8.
  • A new history of Durban Botanic Gardens, Durban Parks Department, 1996, 125pp, ISBN 0-9584125-1-0.
  • (Ed.) ‘Ireland and South Africa in modern times’, as volume III, Southern African‑Irish Studies, (1996), 312pp.
  • (Ed.) ‘The Irish in southern Africa, 1795-1910’ as volume II, Southern African‑Irish Studies, (1992), 290pp.
  • (Ed.) ‘Ireland and southern Africa Conference papers’, as volume I, Southern African-Irish Studies, (1991), 195pp.
  • The Garden Colony: Victorian Natal and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, (with P.A. McCracken), Frandsen, Sandton, 1990, 99pp, ISBN 0-9583124-1-9.
  • The Irish pro-Boers, 1877-1902, Perskor Books, Johannesburg and Cape Town, 1989, 183pp., ISBN 0-626-03284-6.
  • The way to Kirstenbosch (A history of South African botanic gardens: with E.M. McCracken), Annals of Kirstenbosch series, vol. 18, National Botanic Gardens of South Africa, Cape Town, 1988, 142pp, ISBN 0-620-11648.
  • (Ed.) A register of trees for Co. Londonderry, 1768 – 1911, introduction and appendices, (with E.M. McCracken), (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland, 1984), 80pp.

Work in progress

  • Working on the life of the journalist and broadcaster Anthony Lejeune (1929-2018)

Outside interests

  • Heritage and botanic gardens; battlefields of South Africa; and Ireland-South Africa cultural links.



Global Irish Diaspora Congress, keynote: 18 August 2017


CapeTalk: 2 December 2018


‘Talking History with Patrick Geoghegan’ on NewsTalk (Dublin): 26 May 2019 (25.55-33.34)


‘MacBride’s Brigade: Irishmen in the Boer war’, Trasna na tire on-line lecture, Thursday 21 May 2020.


The Invincibles: Park assassins. 8 episodes: Podcast 20 November to 17 December 2020.


‘The Queen v. Patrick O’Donnell’. ROSG May 2021


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