‘The Rebels Turkish Tyranny’: Understanding Sexual Violence in Ireland during the 1640s

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Abstract

This article analyses gendered violence both in the testimonies of English Protestant settlers displaced during the 1641 Irish rebellion and in the pamphlets written shortly afterwards. It argues that, given the settlers’ anxiety to highlight their vulnerability and innocence in the face of perceived native Irish barbarism, sexual violence with its suggestions of possible female acquiescence or complicity had an insecure place in their testimonies. Yet contemporary pamphlet writers described the rape of Protestant women as widespread and indiscriminate, using such narratives to question the masculinity of Catholic Irish men. By investigating personal testimonies of the sexual violence suffered by women, as well as the subsequent use of such information in narratives sensationalising the ordeal of Protestants in Ireland in 1641, the complex meanings attached to sexual violence during the mid-seventeenth century can be better appreciated.

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