Date of Degree
PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Raymond A. Mentzer
The 1641 rebellion is unique in early modern European violence and armed struggles because of the vast collection of over 8,000 eyewitness accounts known as the 1641 depositions. My dissertation seeks to utilize the depositions to uncover the religious worldviews of early modern Irish men and women. Through close readings of the depositions, as well as polemical literature which cited the depositions as source material, the following chapters analyze how survivors and polemicists alike invoked religious language to despicted confessional differences and the workings of divine providence in seventeenth-century Ireland.
In particular, this dissertation focuses on two related themes: how refugees described the conflicts and violence they had experienced and how eyewitness accounts were co-opted and edited by later authors to serve as propaganda. The depositions clearly portray deponents' understandings of differences in religious identity and their familiarity with providential explanations of the crises to which they had f victim. While much subsequent polemical literature presented the conflict in strictly confessionalized terms, a comparative analysis of contemporary propaganda alongside the depositions shows that strategic editing of source materials betrayed the deponents' nuanced depictions of religious identity and their providential interpretations of the progress of the violence of the 1640s. Broadening the context of the rebellion to include similar providentialist propaganda from the Thirty Years War, this dissertation shows the extent to which providential imagery in eyewitness accounts and war propaganda polarized religious identities in print. In making this point, my research contributes to broader interests in the over-simplification of religious language and imagery to define in-groups and out-groups in wartime rhetoric.
After a night of drinking with Irish conspirators, an intoxicated Owen Connolly delivered news of an impending rebellion to royal authorities in Dublin Castle. Beginning on that October evening in 1641, Catholics and Protestants were embroiled in over a decade of warfare that would change Ireland forever. Soon after the rebellion began, Protestant refugees from all across Ireland flocked to Dublin where they described their sufferings in sworn statements, later known as the 1641 depositions. Many of the victims blamed Irish Catholics for the crimes they had seen or heard about from fellow Protestants. Others described miracles and supernatural signs that God would help punish their enemies. While the violence continued in Ireland, Protestant authors invoked the depositions to raise money for troops fighting the rebels while simultaneously raising English fears of invading armies from Catholic kingdoms across Europe. Irish Catholic authors, on the other hand, accused Protestants of lying about the extent of the violence during the war. Instead, Catholic authors blamed the English for centuries of cruelty in Ireland.
This dissertation examines how victims and commentators used religious language to interpret the chaos of war in seventeenth-century Ireland. By combining fears about religious differences, frightening wartime news from Europe, and centuries of English and Irish xenophobia, many people, both Protestant and Catholic, believed that God was on their side during the 1641 rebellion and the wars that followed. This project will be read by those interested in how religious rhetoric is employed in wartime reporting.
Copyright 2015 David Greder