This article provides an introduction to the special issue of Contemporary Buddhism entitled 'U Dhammaloka, oThe Irish Buddhisto: Rewriting the History of Early Western Buddhist Monastics'. Traditional accounts of pioneer western Buddhist monastics begin with the 1899 ordination of H. Gordon Douglas (Asoka), and highlight gentleman scholars writing for a European audience. They consign to obscurity a pre-existing world of western Buddhist monastics of all social classes. To open a window onto this hidden history, this issue presents new material relating to the extraordinary career of U Dhammaloka (?1856-?1914), widely known as 'The Irish Buddhist'. A working-class autodidact, freethinker and temperance campaigner from Dublin, Dhammaloka became renowned throughout colonial Asia as an implacable critic of Christian missionaries and tireless transnational organiser of Asian Buddhists from Burma to Japan. The research described in this issue is innovative not only in content but also in method and approach, having advanced through collaborative, international research employing web-based research tools and online resources. These offer new possibilities for other translocative and interdisciplinary research projects.