The 1641 Depositions
The Research Resource
The three-year project aims to transcribe and digitise the Depositions comprising 3,400 depositions, examinations and associated materials, located in the Library of Trinity College Dublin, in which Protestant men and women of all classes told of their experiences following the outbreak of the rebellion by the Catholic Irish in October, 1641. Collected by government-appointed commissioners, the witness testimony runs to approximately 19,000 pages, and constitutes the chief evidence for the sharply contested allegation that the rebellion began with a general massacre of protestant settlers. As a result, this material has been central to a protracted and bitter historical dispute. 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.
This body of material, unparalleled elsewhere in early modern Europe, 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. In addition, the depositions vividly document various colonial and 'civilizing' processes, including the spread of Protestantism in one of the remotest regions of the Stuart kingdoms and the introduction of lowland agricultural and commercial practices, together with the native response to these developments. However, they are both difficult to access and to read, which has severely restricted their research potential. This project, transcribing the depositions and making them available online, will greatly facilitate their use by a wide audience, build on established links between TCD and the University of Aberdeen, and develop the strategic aims of both institutions.
Aims and Objectives
The main objectives are to transcribe and digitise the '1641 Depositions', and to create a comprehensive electronic resource. This material will be published on the web, providing a unique research tool, of interest to both the academic community and the general public. There will be a major international conference, held in Dublin during Year 3, with an edited volume of the proceedings appearing after the project has been completed. It is also planned to hold an exhibition in Year 3 (with a published catalogue) in the TCD Library, which attracts over 30,000 visitors each month. The project will also deliver a working methodology for the transcription and digitisation of manuscript collections, which can be applied to other unique historical collections.
There are also a number of wider outcomes. Web site publication would give users access to all images and transcripts, with search options allowing free text search, while the database (described in the technical appendix) will facilitate more detailed projects in a variety of disciplines, and provide an ideal tool for use in the teaching environment, at both taught postgraduate and undergraduate levels. The transcripts and database will also provide the raw source material for further research. In addition, the transcriptions and database are also designed to be of interest to the general public, both for historical and genealogical purposes.
The principal methods will include:
- Digital imaging of the source material at preservation standard and to archival specifications.
- Comprehensive transcription and mark-up of the source in XML, using the Text Encoding Initiative [TEI] P4 guidelines, to realise the widest achievable functionality in the time frame allowed.
- Output of digital images for display online.
- Output of transcripts to open source SQL format and PDF (for download)
- Publication online, incorporating the images and SQL database (using PHP), allowing users to search across a wide variety of fields, as well as free text.
- Conservation treatment for 7 volumes of Depositions
The 1641 Depositions Team
- A collaborative initiative between Trinity College, Dublin (Aidan Clarke, Bernard Meehan, Jane Ohlmeyer, Micheal O'Siochru); Aberdeen University (Tom Bartlett) and Cambridge University (John Morrill)
- Cost €1M - funded by Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS, Research Project Grants; €247k), Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC, Resource Enhancement Scheme; €650k) and the Trinity College Dublin Library (€105k)
- Three postdoctoral researchers working for 3 years (now in place)
- Technical support (Brian Donovan of Eneclann Ltd)
- Susan Bioletti, Keeper of Preservation and Conservation, Trinity College Library
- Begins October 2007 for 3 years
- One Conservator (now in place)
Irish Times articles relating to the project (PDF, 2.3mb)
BBC History article on the 1641 rebellion (external)
CIRCA Art Magazine: Portadown: Orange Segments and Seeing Orange at Millennium Court Arts Centre (external)
The 1641 Depositions featured on RTE Radio's The History Show on the 24th of October. A podcast of the show is available here (external).
The 9th Lewis Glucksman Memorial Symposium - The 1641 Depositions, War and Atrocity - takes place on Friday, 22 October in the Synge Theatre. Click here for further details (PDF, 7.6mb).
The Ulster Depositions are now available on-line. Click here to access (external).
The 1641 Depositions - Politics, Society and the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (pdf, 340kb)
The conference took place on Saturday, 10 April 2010, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Arts Building, 6th Floor, IIIS Seminar Room, Trinity College Dublin