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Response to Review of 1641 review

First and foremost, I would like to thank Dr. Power for a very generous and incisive review of The Shadow of a Year. His comments are fair, and I am happy to accept them in the spirit in which they are offered. It might be worth responding, however, to expand upon an issue he identifies, one that underpins the third chapter and which I discuss in the introduction to the book: the assumption that erroneous 'myths' and popular beliefs about the past, which can very often be used to buttress contemporary beliefs and ideological positions, can be magically dispelled by empirical history. Would that it were so. I did not automatically assume that this was the case when writing the chapter in question; but certainly some of those discussed in that chapter seemed to feel that way. Mining the past for contemporary ammunition, along the lines of Michael Gove's pronouncements on the First World War, is all too common. And factually incorrect versions of history are often deployed in the service of both conscious and unconscious prejudice; this may simply be a regrettable aspect of human nature, one that is as true now as it was in the 19th century. But Dr Power rightly points out that pronouncements on the past from those with an axe to grind doesn't mean that 'professional history is incapable of conveying truth'; of course it can. Historians such as Froude and Lecky who stepped into the ranks of argument about the nature of the 1641 rebellion would hardly be classed as professionals in the 21st century; they did not examine the primary sources that would have cast at least some light on what they respectively claimed. It is perhaps naive to expect professional history — which is not the exclusive preserve of academia — to automatically banish misconceptions about the past, especially when it suits people to either believe or propound them. But with the extraordinary and unprecedented access to archival sources available to historians today— Dr Power rightly points to the availability of the 1641 depositions at http://1641.tcd.ie, while indicating their limitations — historians are in a much better position to at least attempt to set the record straight. It might seem to be an uphill task, but it is incumbent upon us all to keep trying; a proposition with which I am sure Dr. Power would agree.