Source 1 of 6: Irish priests attacked

Image of killing and torture.  Irish priests attacked.

Irish priests attacked.

About the Source

Source Details
A Catholic propaganda print from the late 16th century, showing the treatment of Catholic priests in Ireland by the English.

Context
This print was made at a time when the rivalry between Protestants and Catholics was causing violence and misery across Europe. Protestant publications told tales of Catholics massacring Protestants, while Catholic publications told the same story, just the other way around. The bitter struggle in Ireland gave both sides the chance to accuse the other of atrocities; this print shows the Catholic viewpoint.

Puzzled?
At first sight the source presents a horrific scene. We can see priests and bishops being tortured and killed for their faith. Notice, however, the calm expressions of the dead and tortured priests and the cruelty of the English soldiers. This is a sure sign that this print has been created as propaganda, and historians must be careful how they use it.

Questions

  • How are the Irish priests presented in this source?
  • How are the English presented in this source?
  • Can we rely on this as a source to tell us what really happened? Give reasons for your answer.