Questions about using this web site

Q Why are there so many spelling mistakes?
The transcriptions are exact and faithful representations of the original depositions that do not modernise, standardise or correct the original spellings.

Q How do I view the next page of a transcript/deposition?
Select the page of the deposition you are viewing from the bottom of the transcript panel, beside “How to cite”.

Questions about the Manuscripts?

Q What are the 1641 Depositions?
The 1641 Depositions (Trinity College Dublin, MSS 809-841) are witness testimonies mainly by Protestants, but also by some Catholics, from all social backgrounds, concerning their experiences of the 1641 Irish rebellion. The testimonies document the loss of goods, military activity, and the alleged crimes committed by the Irish insurgents, including assault, stripping, imprisonment and murder. This body of material is unparalleled anywhere in early modern Europe, and provides a unique source of information for the causes and events surrounding the 1641 rebellion and for the social, economic, cultural, religious, and political history of seventeenth-century Ireland, England and Scotland.

Q Where are the original Depositions?
In 1741 the 1641 Depositions were gifted by Bishop John Sterne to the Library of Trinity College Dublin. In all about 8,000 depositions or witness statements, examinations and associated materials, amounting to 19,010 pages and bound in 31 volumes, are extant in the Manuscripts and Archives Research Library of Trinity College Dublin. They are difficult to read (some are virtually illegible), the spelling is inconsistent and erratic, as is the use of grammar and punctuation and there is a wide variety of handwriting. Eleven volumes contain depositions relating to Leinster, ten to Munster (seven of these cover County Cork), two to Connacht and eight to Ulster.

Q Who collected the 1641 Depositions?
A Commission for Distressed Subjects, charged with collecting statements from refugees, was set up in December 1641. It consisted of eight Church of Ireland clergymen and was headed by Henry Jones, dean of Kilmore. In March 1642, when it became clear that few refugees from Munster were reaching Dublin, a sub-commissioner, Archdeacon Philip Bisse, was appointed to collect depositions in that province with authority to empanel local commissioners to assist him. All of the depositions collected in the 1640s were taken by the Dublin Commission and its Munster offshoot. The material from the 1650s was collected by a group of more than seventy commissioners spread throughout Ireland. A mixture of army officers and local officials, their responsibility was to assist newly established high courts of justice by gathering evidence against individuals accused of acts of murder or massacre.

Q Why are the Depositions Important?
The depositions relating to Ulster, where the rebellion first began, are of particular importance and form a key element of our historical heritage. During the early decades of the seventeenth century English and Scottish protestant planters (who increasingly identified themselves as ‘British’) colonised the province, often dispossessing the Irish-speaking native catholic population. The depositions vividly document these colonial and ‘civilizing’ processes, which included the spread of Protestantism and the introduction of lowland agricultural and commercial practices to a primarily pastoral area, together with the native responses to them.
The 1641 Depositions constitute the chief evidence for the sharply contested allegation that the 1641 rebellion began with a general massacre of protestant settlers and as a result they have been central to the most protracted and bitter of Irish historical controversies. Propagandists, politicians and historians have all exploited the depositions at different times, and the controversy surrounding them has never been satisfactorily resolved. In fact, the 1641 ‘massacres’, like King William’s victory at the Boyne (1690), and the battle of the Somme (1916), have played a key role in creating and sustaining a collective Protestant/British identity in the province of Ulster.

Q What was the 1641 Rebellion?
Traditionally the rebellion was thought to be sufficiently explained as an inevitable response to the plantation in Ulster. Nowadays most scholars see that as an oversimplification and treat the immediate outbreak of rebellion as a response to political developments in all three of the Stuart kingdoms. The deterioration of the condition of Catholics under Lord Deputy Thomas Wentworth’s rule, the success of the Scottish revolt and the breakdown in relations between the king and the English parliament led Catholics in Ireland who retained property and social position to fear that they were in danger of expropriation and persecution if the power of the king were to be significantly limited. In the belief that the king was seeking allies to assist him in defending his prerogative, they entered into a complex conspiracy to seize control of the Irish government on his behalf.
In the event, the enterprise lost support and the plan was carried out under the leadership of a small group of Ulster Irishmen, members of the ‘deserving Irish’ who had been treated favourably in the plantation. They failed to achieve the primary aim of seizing Dublin Castle and the revolt was initially confined to Ulster, where they relied on the support of the dispossessed Irish. The situation was ambiguous, because the leaders solicited support by claiming that they were acting under a commission from King Charles to take arms on his behalf. Before long, however, it became clear that although most of those who joined the rebellion believed that they were ‘the king’s soldiers’, they were nonetheless determined to overthrow the plantation. It was the limited and loyal aims of the rebels that made it possible for the Old English of the Pale counties, some of whom had been involved in the early stages of the conspiracy, to join with the northern army in December when the hostility of the Dublin government left them defenceless. Their lead was followed in the other provinces and the outbreak of civil war in England, followed by the alliance between the English parliament and the Scots, served to vindicate the original claim to have acted in the king’s interest. The leadership of the Confederates never sought the dispossession of the planters and forbade the re-possession of property. But there is no doubt that there was a mismatch between the aims of the leaders and the expectations of many of their followers:  the ethos of the rebellion was suffused with resentments of past injustices and a determination to exact retribution.

Q What do the 1641 Depositions tell us about plantation in Ireland?
Material in the depositions vividly recaptures these land transfers and the settlement patterns of the newcomers as they built fortified mansions, villages, schools, and churches; cut down woods and drained and enclosed land; and nurtured the development of urban settlements and proto-industry (tanning, iron-making, glass-making, cloth-making and so on).
The testimonies in the depositions also bear witness to the extent to which the crown had managed to ‘civilise’ and ‘anglicise’ Ireland. For at the heart of any colonial venture was the long-held determination of the crown to impose on Ireland an English legal, political, administrative, tenurial and honour system, together with the English language and religion (Protestantism), along with English ‘civility’ – dress, customs, codes of behaviour – and English (lowland) economic and agricultural practices. The depositions illustrate the nature of the English system of landlord-tenant relations and the extent to which a lowland commercial economy had become established in Ireland by 1641. They record how individual landlords improved their lands by promoting tillage; maximized profits from their mills; exploited the estate’s natural resources; and introduced new breeds of cattle.

Questions about this Project?

Q What is the 1641 Depositions Project?
The 1641 Depositions Project aims to conserve, digitise, transcribe and make the depositions available online in a fully TEI compliant format. The project began in 2007 and finished in September 2010. The Ulster Depositions were published online in December 2009, see http://www.tcd.ie/history/1641/ and the remaining provinces were published end September 2010. The Irish Manuscripts Commission has published a hard copy of the 1641 Depositions in 12 volumes.

Q Who are the people?
The 1641 Depositions Project is a collaborative project between Trinity College, Dublin, the University of Aberdeen and the University of Cambridge working in partnership with IBM LanguageWare. Eneclann was commissioned to digitise the manuscripts and to design and plan the technology behind the project and execute the final publication.
The principal investigators on the project are: Professor Jane Ohlmeyer, Professor Thomas Bartlett, Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú and Professor John Morrill, The transcriptions are edited by Professor Aidan Clarke. The researchers on the project are Dr Edda Frankot, Dr Annaleigh Margey and Dr Elaine Murphy.
The College Librarian, Robin Adams, the Keeper of Manuscripts, Dr Bernard Meehan, and his colleagues, especially Jane Maxwell, were an integral part of this project, as was Susie Bioletti, Keeper (Conservation) and conservator Laura Caradonna.
Brian Donovan from Eneclann provided technical advice, planning and support from the inception of the project in 2005. Adam Monaghan from Eneclann was responsible for imaging the original manuscripts. Professor Vinnie Wade and Dr Séamus Lawless from the Intelligent Systems Laboratory in the School of Computer Science and Statistics and Tim Keefe, Head of Digital Resources and Imaging Services, Trinity College Dublin, provided technological advice, as did Dr Deirdre O’Regan (University of Aberdeen) and members of the Digital Humanities Observatory, especially Dr Susan Schreibman and Dot Porter. Marie Wallace and D.J. McCloskey, IBM LanguageWare, provided the project with software and allowed us to avail of their expertise. Rain Communications designed the artwork for the web interface. Francisco Villena, Patrick McDonald, Tristan Fagan-Guimond and Elmor Lustig of KCO Ltd. were the web developers for the project.

Q Who funded the project?
The project received over €1 million from the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Arts & Humanities Research Council in the UK and the Library of Trinity College, Dublin.

Q Can I download the original images of the 1641 Depositions?
The copyright of the original images of the 1641 Depositions belong to the Board of the Library of TCD and are not available to be downloaded. They can viewed online at this website.

Q Can I visit the Library in TCD to see the original 1641 Depositions?
Unfortunately it is not possible to see the original depositions in TCD. As well as the transcriptions of the 1641 Depositions this website contains high quality images of all the depositions.

Q Can I publish extracts or counties from the 1641 Depositions?
The copyright for the transcriptions belongs to the 1641 Depositions Project/the Library of TCD and the transcriptions may not be published without permission.

Q Can you help me research people/places of interest to me that are mentioned in the 1641 Depositions?
Unfortunately we are unable to help people with individual research queries.