HIS32970 The 1641 Rebellion

Academic Year 2024/2025

The 1641 rebellion was one of the hinge points in Irish History. Following a failed strike to seize Dublin Castle and some limited success in occupying fortresses in Ulster, the rebellion gradually spread throughout most of the island with a pattern of violence which involved attacks against the Protestant population which saw them plundered, often stripped, expelled from their homes, and sometimes becoming the victims of even worse violence, including many deaths, either directly at the hands their attackers or more commonly from exposure during a very cold winter. In turn, the essentially settler population responded with often savage reprisals and their capacity to inflict casualties was increased in areas where they were supported by organized military forces, and then vastly expanded by the gradual arrival of armies from England and Scotland to repress the rebellion. The constitutional crisis in England which ultimately led to the outbreak of Civil War in August 1642 meant that rather than being quelled the rebellion instead gave birth to an oath-bound association, the Confederate Catholics of Ireland, which attempted to both restrain the social disorder which had engulfed the island and to organize to protect the Catholic community from the expected retribution for the rebellion from Britain. Much of the island came under the control of this Catholic proto-state which only dissolved itself in 1649 as the bulk of its organization made peace with a Royalist party also engaged in war with the regicidal English parliament. It was this Interregnum regime which conquered Ireland between 1649 and 1653, resulting in a profound demographic catastrophe and what proved an enduring shift in the confessional division of land ownership and urban government. Part of the motivation for the conquest and the punitive settlement derived from the desire to settle accounts for the 1641 rebellion which was widely believed to have caused a greatly inflated number of casualties, and for which most of the Catholic population was assigned responsibility in different measures. Protestant memory of the 1641 rebellion which tended to exaggerate the number of deaths, the brutality and malevolence of the violence, the responsibility of the Catholic clergy and the role Protestant negligence had played in allowing their community to become victims in such a harrowing fashion, meant that it subsequently became a central reference point of Protestant identity in the island. In a cognate fashion, the savagery of the Cromwellian conquest and its attendant demographic disaster, intensified by changes in landownership and the exile of key military, mercantile and clerical elites, helped to unify a narrative memory of Catholic Irish as victims of state and sectarian violence.

Show/hide contentOpenClose All

Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this course students should have gained:
-a thorough understanding of the genesis, development and consequences of the 1641 Rebellion.

-experience of analyzing an extensive array of printed primary documents at a level appropriate to the final year of a BA programme.
-an understanding of the most important historiographical literature concerning the 1641 rebellion at a level appropriate to the final year of a BA programme.

-experience of writing essays and document analyses at a level appropriate to the final year of a BA programme.
-students should also have participated in a series of seminar discussions and practiced a suite of verbal skills relating to the analysis of primary and secondary materials and to the presentation of their ideas.

Indicative Module Content:

Week 1
Early Stuart Ireland: A plantation Society?
Week 2
Two churches: one island
Week 3
Constitutional Crisis 1637-41
Week 4
The two 1641 rebellions: high politics and sectarian civil war
Week 5
Rebellion in the localities: Tyrone
Week 6
Rebellion in the localities: Waterford
Week 7
Henry Jones and Sir John Temple construct the “Protestant” 1641
Week 8
Catholic Retrospectives : Richard Bellings and the Aphorismical Discovery
Week 9
The Cromwellian Conquest
Week 10
The Interregnum Settlement
Week 11
Atrocity in Early Modern Ireland: the Rebellion in Context
Week 12
Course overview and conclusion

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Small Group




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This is a largely seminar-based module, taught through a one-hour weekly
lecture and a two-hour seminar. The lecture provides an overview of the
week’s topic, focusing upon key historical trends, debates and events. The weekly
seminar is focused upon individual active / task-based learning with a strong emphasis on close reading of primary and secondary material, discussion and debate. Advanced research, writing and citation
skills are developed through both oral participation and written assignments..
Autonomous learning is promoted through wide reading of material to allow participation in class activities, the engagement with and analysis of primary source material and in preparing written essays and document analyses in written form 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment
• Self-assessment activities

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback on the quality of class participation is given by the module coordinator in the course of the classes, identifying the strong and weak aspects of points made or raised by students. Written comments are provided on each piece of submitted written work. The feedback which students receive in class is designed to improve their analytical skills and identify areas that they may be missing in their readings of the class material. Feedback on the first written assignment provides indications of what a student has done well or less well and thus helps to identify areas of potential improvement.