British Civil Wars

(1.1.5) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 5 - Plantations and Confederates

In researching the state of play in Ireland, Fiona comes across her most significant historiographical challenge yet.


Writer and Presenter: Fiona Barnett @stitchthisfiona

Producer: Emily Benita @BenitaEmily

Technical Producer and Sound Engineer: Ali Alnajjar @Alithelampie

Historical Consultant: Mary Jacobs @msmaryjacobs

Music Composer and Performer: Harry Harris @CmonHarris

A huge, highly-caffeinated thank you to our Patreons, ScaryBiscuits, Tom Vickers and Tom Wein.



Between you and me - and this is in part explanation for why this episode arrived a bit late - this is the most difficult thing I’ve had to write so far for Past Tense. I mean that in several senses: it’s the most emotionally heavy-going episode to date (and there’ll be plenty more where that came from!), as well as the most politically relevant to the twenty-first century that we’ve covered so far. It’s also a comparatively under-studied part of British Civil War history, at least on this side of the Irish Channel. In the writing of this episode, I’ve had conversations with a generous handful of people - English, Scottish, and Irish - to the effect that none of us really knew terribly much about early seventeenth-century Ireland.

If that’s you, too, and you’d like to know any more about it, the best books I’ve come across that are well-written for interested laymen - that you can buy via the links under the bibilography - are Raymond Gillespie’s Seventeenth Century Ireland: Making Ireland Modern which is a great concise overview; Moody, Martin and Byrne’s A New History of Ireland Volume 3: Early Modern Ireland 1534-1691, which is a bit of a brick but extremely accessible for a history of the whole period (including a few decades either side - this one’s good for the Nine Years’ War as well); and John Gibney’s The Shadow of a Year, which mostly talks about the 1641 massacre. Gibney’s book is a really interesting one, which I expect to come back to in Volume 3 of this series, because it’s less interested in talking about the actual events of the massacre, and more interested in how it was reconstructed and viewed in the years that followed, and how the whole thing has made its way into the Irish popular consciousness. Gibney is interested in the same things as I am - which is to say, not what we know or how we know it, so much as why we know it, and why we remember the bits we do and forget the bits we don’t. Irish confederate history is nakedly political. There’s no getting past it. But the more I look at how political it is, the more I realise that all the rest of history isn’t that much different. Either way, it’s a fascinating and readable book and I highly recommend it.

In terms of the texts I chose in particular to inform this episode, I’ve deliberately picked works by Irish authors and from Irish institutions, and you’ll notice that the bibliography is a bit longer than is usually is. I think that’s important here. Not that it isn’t usually the case, but Episode 1.5 has involved a hell of a lot of reading. This is also the bit of BCW history that has the most provocatively-titled books I’ve yet found: over a year of research, Nicholas Canny’s Making Ireland British: 1580-1650 remains the title-emblazoned front cover that has got me the largest number of awkward looks so far when I’ve read it in public.

One other thing that I realise I’ve not mentioned so far, but which our able historian Mary has reminded me about once or twice - when I say “Catholic”, I’m using it in the Capital-C sense of Roman Catholic, rather than the Lowercase-C sense of the universal Christian church. You probably guessed that already, but now you know I’m doing it deliberately!



Buckingham (George Villiers, 1st Duke of Buckingham) - 1592-1638. Lover and adviser of James VI/I; adviser to Charles I. Extremely influential politician due to his closeness with James and Charles - but shockingly bad at foreign policy (including in Ireland), and extremely unpopular with the general populace. Assassinated in Portsmouth in 1628 by John Felton, a naval officer.

Charles I - 1600-1649; King of England, Scotland and Ireland, 1625-1649. Leader of the Royalist (Cavalier) faction; ultimately beheaded for treason.

Henrietta Maria - 1609-1669; wife of Charles I 1625-1649 (until his death); mother of Charles II and James II/VII, and seven other children (including three who died in infancy). French by birth, and practising Catholic.

Henry VIII - 1491-1547; King of England 1509-1547. Famous Tudor monarch with six wives (but not all at the same time). Kickstarted the Protestant Reformation in England when he set up the Church of England. After years of waning English influence in Ireland, Henry asserted his authority and, from 1541, used the title “King of Ireland”.

James VI/I - 1566-1625; King of Scotland 1567-1625; King of England 1603-1625. Father of Charles I.

Laud (Archbishop William Laud) - 1573-1645. English Privy Councillor from 1627, Bishop of London from 1628, and Archbishop of Canterbury from 1633. Steered Charles’s religious policy during the 1630s, which made him increasingly unpopular. Imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1641 by the English Parliament, and beheaded for treason in 1645.

O’Neill/Tyrone, Hugh (Hugh O’Neill, Earl of Tyrone) - c.1550-1616. Irish rebel who led the Catholic Irish side in the Nine Years’ War between 1595 and 1603. When he was defeated, James VI/I allowed him to keep his lands, but he escaped to Rome in 1607 and lived there for the rest of his life.

O’Neill, Phelim (Sir Phelim O’Neill, sometimes spelt Felim O’Neill) - c.1604-1653. Catholic Irish rebel. Elected to the Irish Parliament in 1641, in October 1641 he seized Charlemont Castle in Ulster, ultimately starting the Irish Confederates War. When the Irish were defeated in 1652, he was tried for treason, and executed.

Wentworth (Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford from 1640) - 1593-1641. An MP from 1614, Wentworth became Lord President of the North in 1628. After that he was appointed to the Privy Council, and rose in the ranks, becoming Lord Deputy of Ireland, and then returning to help Charles in the Bishops’ War. Beheaded for treason in 1641.



(1.1.ii) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Bonus 2 - Mince Pies And Misrule

(1.1.4) British Civil Wars - Volume 1 Episode 4 - The Scottish Covenanters