The University of Wisconsin Press

The Shadow of a Year
The 1641 Rebellion in Irish History and Memory
John Gibney

History of Ireland and the Irish Diaspora
James S. Donnelly, Jr., and Thomas Archdeacon, Series Editors

Gibney provides exactly the over-arching examination of the ‘history wars’ that we have been waiting for and, in the context of the Northern Ireland Peace Process and the recent mass digitization of the 1641 loyalist depositions, it is exceptionally timely.”
—David Dickson, Trinity College Dublin

In October 1641 a rebellion broke out in Ireland. Dispossessed Irish Catholics rose up against British Protestant settlers whom they held responsible for their plight. This uprising, the first significant sectarian rebellion in Irish history, gave rise to a decade of war that would culminate in the brutal re-conquest of Ireland by Oliver Cromwell. It also set in motion one of the most enduring and acrimonious debates in Irish history.
Was the 1641 rebellion a justified response to dispossession and repression? Or was it an unprovoked attempt at sectarian genocide? John Gibney comprehensively examines three centuries of this debate.
The struggle to establish and interpret the facts of the past was also a struggle over the present: if Protestants had been slaughtered by vicious Catholics, this provided an ideal justification for maintaining Protestant privilege. If, on the other hand, Protestant propaganda had inflated a few deaths into a vast and brutal “massacre,” this justification was groundless.
Gibney shows how politicians, historians, and polemicists have represented (and misrepresented) 1641 over the centuries, making a sectarian understanding of Irish history the dominant paradigm in the consciousness of the Irish Protestant and Catholic communities alike.

John Gibney earned his doctorate in history at Trinity College Dublin and is author of Ireland and the Popish Plot. A guide for the popular Historical Walking Tours of Dublin offered by Historical Insights Ireland, he is a frequent contributor to History Ireland magazine and scholarly journals. He has been a research fellow at the University of Notre Dame and the National University of Ireland Galway.


“Gibney's work is deeply researched, well documented, and extremely well written. It will be a valuable resource for lay readers, scholars, and students. Highly recommended.”
Library Journal, starred review

“The book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the interactions between history and memory and myth in Ireland.”
American Historical Review

“A useful, well-written and satisfying guide to the uses and mis-uses of what remains a central tragedy of Irish history.”
Journal of Ecclesiastical History

“Gibney has steeped himself in the polemical literature surrounding the ensuing history of the 1641 rebellion, and his analysis of these issues is meticulous and scrupulous.”
Catholic Historical Review

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Of Related Interest:
The cover of Captain Rock features a colored illustration of four Irishmen at a rude table with tankards, a rifle and a paper.Captain Rock
The Irish Agrarian Rebellion of 1821—1824
James S. Donnelly, Jr.
"Donnelly's knowledge of Irish rural society is both broad and deep, and this is by far the most thorough and insightful study of this tragic, complex, and very important episode in pre-famine Irish history."—Kerby Miller, author of Emigrants and Exiles

February 2013
LC: 2012010169 DA
244 pp.   6 x 9   9 b/w photos

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Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28954-6
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“This is the best account to date of how continuing English-language disputations concerning the nature of the insurrection that occurred in Ireland in 1641 influenced present politics for three centuries, in three countries and in two continents. Scholars in the U.S. will benefit especially from John Gibney’s discussion of how the subject was re-opened in a new environment by Matthew Carey, who was responding in part to the inclusion of the extreme Protestant interpretation of the subject in the American editions of Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.”
—Nicholas Canny, National University of Ireland, Galway

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Updated January 13, 2013

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