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The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms

The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms

Eamon Darcy
Volume: 86
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    The Irish Rebellion of 1641 and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
    Book Description:

    After an evening spent drinking with Irish conspirators, an inebriated Owen Connelly confessed to the main colonial administrators in Ireland that a plot was afoot to root out and destroy Ireland's English and Protestant population. Within days English colonists in Ireland believed that a widespread massacre of Protestant settlers was taking place. Desperate for aid, they began to canvass their colleagues in England for help, claiming that they were surrounded by an evil popish menace bent on destroying their community. Soon sworn statements, later called the 1641 depositions, confirmed their fears (despite little by way of eye-witness testimony). In later years, Protestant commentators could point to the 1641 rebellion as proof of Catholic barbarity and perfidy. However, as the author demonstrates, despite some of the outrageous claims made in the depositions, the myth of 1641 became more important than the reality. The aim of this book is to investigate how the rebellion broke out and whether there was a meaning in the violence which ensued. It also seeks to understand how the English administration in Ireland portrayed these events to the wider world, and to examine whether and how far their claims were justified. Did they deliberately construct a narrative of death and destruction that belied what really happened? An obvious, if overlooked, context is that of the Atlantic world; and particular questions asked are whether the English colonists drew upon similar cultural frameworks to describe atrocities in the Americas; how this shaped the portrayal of the 1641 rebellion in contemporary pamphlets; and the effect that this had on the wider Wars of the Three Kingdoms between England, Ireland and Scotland. Dr Eamon Darcy is a research assistant in the School of Histories and Humanities at Trinity College, Dublin.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-070-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xi-xii)
    Eamon Darcy
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The 1641 Rebellion and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
    (pp. 1-16)

    What began on 23 October 1641? Was it a rebellion? An uprising? A nationalist rising? A Catholic plot? A pre-meditated massacre? An indiscriminate slaughter? A fabrication? An exaggeration? A response to the wider pressures of ‘Britain’ and an integral part of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms? Contemporaries, scholars and historians alike have debated and contested the causes and course of what is now known as the 1641 rebellion in Ireland. Like any military event there were participants (both losers and winners), survivors, victims and witnesses. The records and testimonies left behind are fraught with difficulties for researchers. Memories of...

  6. 1 Representing Violence and Empire: Ireland and the Wider World
    (pp. 17-47)

    Barnaby Rich, an Essex-born soldier and amateur poet, wrote extensively of his life on the Munster plantations and of his military encounters with Irish natives. Like many other English settlers, Rich wondered why the conquest of Ireland had failed after four hundred years. He blamed Catholic priests who educated Irish natives ‘in the disciplines of the Popes Church’. Now the indigenous population vowed ‘obedience and subiection to his holinesse’. Consequently, native Irish congregations were trained ‘to hate … and despise their Prince’.¹ Across the Atlantic Ocean a colonial contemporary of Rich based in Virginia, Robert gray, recorded his views on...

  7. 2 Imagined Violence? The Outbreak of the 1641 Rebellion in Ireland
    (pp. 48-76)

    Accounts written after the 1641 rebellion expressed surprise that the native Irish took arms against the colonial order. Under the happy stewardship of King Charles I, they argued, the three kingdoms enjoyed relative peace and tranquillity in comparison to the ‘distempers’ of Europe. This might explain why modern-day historians have emphasised the peaceful condition of Ireland in the 1630s. Such sentiments, however, were a deliberate reconstruction of the past in order to paint life in Stuart Ireland and Britain in the best possible light. In truth, the end of Charles’s reign was fraught with tension. Matters were not helped by...

  8. 3 Manufacturing Massacre: The 1641 Depositions and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms
    (pp. 77-101)

    The 1641 depositions record how the rebellion spread from its epicentre in Ulster to the rest of the country. They reveal the grievances of those who took part, capture the trauma experienced by the victims and contain a wealth of information on the range of responses of the native Irish community. While collecting the testimonies, prominent members of the colonial administration consulted them. They then published some of the information through English printers and disseminated it to political figures across the three kingdoms. As a result, Catholic commentators claimed that the 1641 depositions were gathered for the purpose of composing...

  9. 4 The 1641 Rebellion and Violence in the New and Old Worlds
    (pp. 102-131)

    The seventeenth century, in the eyes of numerous scholars, was an exceptionally violent time to be alive.¹ War and rebellions in Ireland and the Atlantic world were followed by violent conquests by colonial armies. Accounts by conquistadores, English colonists and detached observers all recounted the brutality of these armed conflicts. The highly charged confessional character of European political and social relations precipitated violent events such as the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre, the Piedmont massacre and facilitated the interpretation of the Thirty Years’ War through a sectarian prism. The purpose of this chapter, therefore, is to investigate whether there were similarities...

  10. 5 Contesting the 1641 Rebellion
    (pp. 132-167)

    Throughout the course of the war, combatants referred back to the outbreak of rebellion and contested its nature. Accounts of rebel violence justified the use of excessive force by English and Scottish armies in Ireland in 1642 and again in 1649. After the successful conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell, histories of 1641 appeared to remind authorities of what Irish Protestants had suffered during the previous decade. The establishment of the Cromwellian regime in Ireland provided an opportunity radically to alter the Irish political landscape. Histories of the 1641 rebellion played a key role in these debates: combatants in the...

  11. Conclusion: The 1641 Rebellion in its British, European and Atlantic World Context
    (pp. 168-178)

    Writing in 1988, Hugh Trevor Roper, Emeritus Regius Professor of modern History at Oxford, spoke of ‘The lost moments of history’. Had certain events not occurred, he postulated, European and global history would have taken a radically different course. He pointed to numerous examples, such as the failed Pacification of Ghent in 1576, which might have brought about ‘the historic unity of the Netherlands’. Instead, Belgium and Holland became two separate polities that ‘remain apart today’. The purpose of Roper’s article was to discuss moments that led to ‘a long-term change of direction: a change, moreover which need not have...

  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 179-202)
  13. Index
    (pp. 203-212)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 213-213)