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Religion, ethnicity and “conversion” in the 1641 Irish Rebellion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Article number739
Pages (from-to)715-739
Number of pages25
Issue number6
Early online date6 Sep 2019
Accepted/In press19 Aug 2019
E-pub ahead of print6 Sep 2019
Published1 Nov 2020


King's Authors


This article examines the attempt to coerce large numbers of Protestants to “convert” to Catholicism during the 1641 Irish Rebellion. Drawing especially on the 1641 Depositions, it argues that such “conversions” were both a powerful and ritualised form of violence, but also provide tangible evidence of evolving religious and ethnic loyalties in seventeenth-century Ireland. Focusing on previously neglected coerced conversions sheds light not just on the rising itself, but also wider Irish society. In particular, the emergence of “Irish” as the primary identifier of the Catholic population–both Old English and native Irish–is here scrutinised. “Conversions” during the rebellion provide the opportunity to see the application of such categories on the ground and question the narrative of an ascendant religious identity. The article also positions Ireland itself as part of a wider European and Atlantic story in debates–and conflict–surrounding conversion, faith and loyalty.

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