BA (Oxford University), MA (University of Pennsylvania, hon), PhD (London School of Economics & Political Science)
Curriculum Vitae: html (with links to publications); pdf; .doc ; Departmental website
Penn Program in Ethnic Conflict, University of Pennsylvania, 3819-33 Chestnut Street, Suite 130 Philadelphia, PA 19104. Telephone: 215.898.3510; Fax: 215.573.0653
Brendan O'Leary's recent book, How to Get Out of Iraq With Integrity is now available from University of Pennsylvania Press.
Brendan O’Leary was born in Cork, Ireland. He was brought up in Nigeria, Sudan, and
Northern Ireland. His primary schooling was in Kaduna, Nigeria, Cork, Ireland, and in
Cloughey and Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. His grammar school was Saint
MacNissi’s College, Garron Tower, Northern Ireland. There he met his regular co-author John McGarry, whom he succeeded in winning the Joint Association of
Classical Teachers prize for first place in Advanced level Ancient History in Northern
He is a graduate of Keble College, Oxford University, where he was the holder of
an Open Scholarship, and received a first class honors degree in Philosophy, Politics and
Economics (1981). His principal tutors were Larry Siedentop, the distinguished scholar of
Tocqueville and critic of the democratic underdevelopment of the European Union, and Paul Collier, the renowned political economist.
O'Leary wrote his PhD thesis at the London School of Economics & Political Science,
which won the Robert McKenzie Memorial Prize, and was subsequently published as
The Asiatic Mode of Production: Oriental Despotism, Historical Materialism and Indian
History (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989). His thesis was examined by the late Professor Ernest Gellner and
Professor Nicos Mouzelis. The two major intellectual influences on O’Leary’s
subsequent work have been Gellner and the Dutch political scientist Arend Lijphart.
O’Leary is currently Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of
Pennsylvania and Director of the University of Pennsylvania Program in Ethnic Conflict. Before coming to Penn, O’Leary was on the faculty of the London
School of Economics and Political Science between 1983 and 2003, where he had been Professor of
Political Science, chair (convenor) of its Government Department, and an elected
His research interests include theories of the liberal democratic state, nationalism, national and ethnic
conflict regulation, political violence, and power-sharing in deeply divided places. He is the author, co-author or co-editor of nineteen books
and collections, and has authored or co-authored over 125 refereed articles and
book chapters (Curriculum Vitae).
O’Leary’s academic career has always been combined with political advisory work. He
was a political advisor to the British Labour Shadow Cabinet on Northern Ireland
between 1987-8 and 1996-7, advising Kevin McNamara and the late Marjorie
(‘Mo’) Mowlam. He advised Irish, British, and American government ministers
and officials and the Irish-American Morrison delegation during the Northern Ireland peace process, appeared as an expert witness before the US Congress, and was a guest at the White House. His work with John McGarry on police reform in Northern Ireland was singled out in the press for influencing the Patten Commission which reported
in 1999. O’Leary subsequently played a significant role in public debate over the implementation of the report.
He has also worked as a constitutional advisor for the European Union and the
United Nations in promoting confederal and federal resolutions in Somalia, and for
the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development in constitutional
consultancies on power-sharing in coalition governments in Kwa-Zulu Natal, South
Africa, and in Nepal. He contributed to the United Nations Human Development Report
on Culture and Liberty (2004 - Photo). Since
2003 he has been an international constitutional advisor to the Kurdistan Regional
Government in Iraq, assisting in preparation for: the negotiation of the Transitional
Administrative Law (2004); electoral systems design (2004-5); the Constitution of Iraq (2005); , and the Constitution of the
Kurdistan Region (2005- ongoing). O’Leary has acted as an expert witness on Iraq to
branches of the US Government, and acted as an expert witness to the United
Kingdom’s Iraq Commission (8th hearing, part 7).
O’Leary has been a regular contributor to public media and debate in the US, Great
Britain and Ireland. He has made full TV and radio documentary programs with the UK’s
Channel 4 and BBC - where he was a regular presenter on the Analysis program. He defended Iraq’s constitution in a major public debate organized by the BBC at
Chatham House in August 2006, and recently outlined constructive prospects for Kirkuk.
He has written op-eds for The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The
Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Guardian, The Belfast
Telegraph, The Independent (London), the Independent (Dublin), Canada’s Globe and Mail, The Irish Times and a range of other newspapers. He enjoys making
contributions to Field Day Review.
O’Leary is the Series Editor of National and Ethnic Conflict in the 21st Century with the University of Pennsylvania Press. Over the next five years O’Leary hopes
to complete a comparative treatise with John McGarry on How States Manage Nations.
O’Leary is the father of Anna O’Leary (born 2000) and lives in
center city Philadelphia.
© 2008 Penn Program in Ethnic Conflict