The draft notes for a proposed history of Ireland compiled by Arthur Annesley, the first earl of Anglesey, and letters to Edmund Borlase, author of The history of the execrable Irish rebellion (London, 1680), which describe the reception of his work in England and Ireland, offer a convenient keyhole through which historians can investigate the craft of history writing in the early-modern period. While there has been much discussion of these authors and their contribution to wider political (and highly partisan) debates concerning the Popish Plot and the Exclusion Crisis, less has been said about the historical methods they employed to understand the past. While this article does not deny that both authors attempted to defend their own political factions and views, it argues that a focus on the partisan nature of their contributions neglects the historiographical context to what they produced. Both Anglesey’s and Borlase’s research and writing occurred at a time of profound change in history writing as readers were becoming increasingly critical of works they read and authors engaged in sustained attempts to understand deep-lying causes of the various crises that engulfed the three kingdoms. The purpose of this article, therefore, is to illustrate how both Anglesey and Borlase’s ‘histories’ reflected this historiographical turn in the late-seventeenth century.
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