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The 1641 depositions are one of the most controversial sources in modern Irish history. They comprise a collection of 8,000 witness statements taken during the 1640s and 1650s – a period of extreme violence throughout the island of Ireland. The depositions became chief evidence for the hotly contested allegation that Irish Catholics had massacred their Protestant settler neighbours.

The depositions provide ideal material for second level students to hone their skills as young historians while learning about the plantations and the 1641 rebellion. They also set the context for the subsequent Confederate Wars and the actions of Oliver Cromwell. The digitisation of the depositions in 2010 has opened up these sources for use in the classroom.

The lessons shared here are grounded in the Bridge21 Model of 21st Century Learning and are informed by Stanford University’s ‘Reading Like a Historian’ approach. They are designed to bring use of the depositions into the classroom, both in printed, modernised format and as digital resources to be read in their original form. We hope you find them a useful way to teach not only this important period of Irish seventeenth-century history, but also the skills of reading and thinking like a historian.

If you are interested in seventeenth-century Irish history there are other useful websites you can explore. The online exhibition ‘Ireland in Turmoil’ has a wealth of useful resources about the 1641 depositions and their wider context. The Down Survey Project provides detailed information about the transfer of Irish land ownership in this period. Finally, the Great Parchment Project enriches our understanding of the Ulster Plantations.