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Filmmakers Discover Irish Images in the Digital Library


This 2008 film, “Cromwell in Ireland,” also marketed as “Cromwell: God’s Executioner,” features numerous images, plates and maps from Villanova University’s Digital Library. In 2007, writers and researchers working on the film’s script were seeking archival images depicting individuals, locations and events pertinent to the story of Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland. During this invasion, which spanned four years (1649 to 1653), an estimated 500,000 people, one quarter of the population of Ireland, died from war, disease and starvation, making this the greatest catastrophe ever to befall the country.

After browsing the Joseph McGarrity Collection of the Digital Library, the scriptwriters noted several specific images of interest for their enterprise. The writers, after contacting the Digital Library staff for permission to use these images, requested assistance in locating other images that were proving difficult to find. An extensive search of the print McGarrity Collection and the Early European rare book collection produced a considerable number of rare sources with plates and maps that fit the filmmakers’ needs. These materials were soon digitized and added to the Digital Library for use by the international filmmakers and by scholars studying these tragic events.

The film, produced by Irish national broadcaster RTE and the UK’s History Channel, aired on Irish television in September, 2008, and is scheduled to be broadcast on the UK History Channel this November. The filmmakers hope that the series will be broadcast on a North American channel such as Smithsonian Networks or the History Channel in 2009.

Directed by two-time IFTA Award-winning director Maurice Sweeney, the cast includes a host of international stars. The film also features commentaries by leading historians of this period of Irish history, including Micheál Ó Siochrú; John Morrill, professor of history at University of Cambridge; Jane Ohlmeyer, professor of history at Trinity College, Dublin; Pádraig Lenihan, lecturer in history at the University of Limerick; Nicholas Canny, professor of history at NUI Galway; and Ronald Hutton, professor of history at the University of Bristol.

Cromwell in Ireland is presented and largely authored by Dr. Micheál Ó Siochrú, a vibrant young Irish historian who has just published a full-length study of Cromwell’s campaign in Ireland, God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. Throughout the film, he and the other historians guide the viewer through the historical narrative and action, offering challenging new insights into the war and its legacy.

The historical figures that the film features most prominently are Oliver Cromwell, England’s famous general and a Puritan deeply inimical toward the Irish Catholic Church; Henry Ireton, his second-in-command and successor; Sir Charles Coote, his uncompromising lieutenant in Ulster; Owen Roe O’Neill, Gaelic Ireland’s great leader; his kinsman Hugh Dubh O’Neill; and the Marquis of Ormond, the ineffectual leader of the doomed Royalist coalition.

The film consists of two 52-minute episodes, each including credits featuring the contributions of Villanova University’s Digital Library.

A screening of the film, “Cromwell in Ireland,” will be held in the new Griffin Room, Falvey Memorial Library, on Thurs., Nov. 13, 2008, from 12:00-2:00.

Please join us for the screening.  R.S.V.P. .

(Column adapted from the Blue Electrode 26 September post by Michael Foight)



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Last Modified: October 30, 2008

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