‘Those Savage Days of Memory’: John Temple and His Narrative of the 1641 Uprising

  • Sarah Covington
Part of the New Directions in Irish and Irish American Literature book series (NDIIAL)


Christianity began with the spectacle of a suffering body in extremis, which produced the template on which subsequent narrative traditions were built. In hagiographies and martyrologies—that is, the stories of saints and martyrs—the visceral and graphically depicted pain of the hero became central, and was used, paradoxically, to both outrage and inspire, to express horror and joy, to unite communities of the faithful and to stigmatise those who persecuted them.1 Above all, such stories contributed to the forging of collective memory for communities which placed their own identity and history within a larger sacred framework.2 In the case of martyrologies, much of the suffering could be highly personalised, with punishments becoming an inextricable and iconographic part of the victim-hero’s identity, whether it be St Laurence roasted on a gridiron, St Sebastian punctured by arrows, or St Bartholomew flayed alive. But martyrdom also required that an individual accept and even welcome this abject suffering as the price—and the proof—of his or her beliefs; without this element of agency, the stories of people being killed for their faith was denuded of the cause behind their suffering, resulting in narratives simply depicting an act of killing: an atrocity story, in other words, and not a martyrology proper.


Collective Memory Social Memory Jewish History Modern Reader Historical Journal 
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Articles, Books, Pamphlets, Television Programmes and Websites

  1. Clarke, Aidan, ‘The Commission for the Despoiled Subject, 1641-7’, in Reshaping Ireland 1550-1700: Colonization and Its Consequences, ed. by Brian Mac Cuarta (Dublin: Four Courts, 2011), 241–60.Google Scholar
  2. Corish, Patrick, ‘The Rising of 1641 and the Confederacy, 1641-5’, in A New History of Ireland: Early Modern Ireland, 1534-1691, ed. by T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin, and F.J. Byrne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), III, 289–316Google Scholar
  3. Dunlop, Robert, ‘The Depositions relating to the Irish Massacres of 1641’, English Historical Review 1 (1886), 740–4.Google Scholar
  4. Dunlop, Robert, ‘The Forged Commission of 1641’, English Historical Review, 2 (1887), 527–33.Google Scholar
  5. Temple, John, The Irish Rebellion, or An History of the Beginnings and first Progress of the Generall Rebellion raised within the Kingdom of Ireland (London, 1646).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sarah Covington
    • 1
  1. 1.New YorkUSA

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