How to Change History: William Petty, Irish slavery, and a fake debate

Treating debunked pseudo-history and personal attacks as legitimate criticism of historical research is bad enough on the letters page of a widely-read history magazine. Publishing articles based on spurious sources is worse. In my last post, I discussed History Ireland‘s publication of Mike McCormack’s letter attacking Liam Hogan for exposing the myth of Irish slavery. While Hogan was McCormack’s target, however, the article that ostensibly provoked the letter was a piece by another historian, John Donoghue, entitled “The Curse of Cromwell: revisiting the Irish slavery debate” (History Ireland 25:4 [July/August 2017], pp.24-28). Ironically, Donoghue, unlike Hogan, defends the idea of Irish slavery. But he does so in part through an academic argument about Cromwellian policy in 1650s Ireland apparently based on the examination of seventeenth-century sources. At key points, his claims are as dubious as McCormack’s. But the plausibility their scholarly presentation confers makes their publication, if anything, more harmful.

Donoghue argues for the historical reality of Irish slavery in two ways. First, he downplays distinctions between indentured servitude for a fixed term (the standard means by which English, Irish, and Scottish labor was brought to the Caribbean plantations) and the permanent, heritable, and racialized enslavement of African people and their descendants, arguing on the basis of contemporary comment that Irish servants were treated in much the same way as enslaved Africans. These sources are well known to historians of slavery in the Atlantic world; I will not pursue them here.

Second, Donoghue asserts (p.27) that officials in Oliver Cromwell’s regime “envisioned enslaving Irish and ‘negroes’ in parallel fashion”, a claim he relates to the scale of indentured servitude in the English Caribbean during the 1650s. He singles out one Cromwellian in particular: William Petty (1623-1687). Trained as a physician, Petty moved to Ireland in the wake of Cromwell’s bloody conquest of the island in 1649-52. In the mid-1650s, he facilitated Cromwell’s expropriation of Irish Catholic land by conducting a survey and mapping of the island called the “Down Survey”. After the Restoration of the Stuart monarchy in 1660, Petty — a substantial landowner in Ireland thanks to his survey — wrote a series of works on Irish and English economy and policy that have earned him the status of a pioneer economist.[1]

Donoghue’s account muddles the details and chronology of Petty’s career in such a way as to make works written for Stuart eyes in the 1670s and 1680s into evidence of Cromwellian aims in the 1650s. He asserts (p.26) that the Down Survey was designed “to assess the future value of expropriated Irish land and labour” (it wasn’t), and that Petty’s later book The Political Anatomy of Ireland (written c.1671, printed 1691) simply “analysed” the survey’s “findings” (it didn’t). This is, at the very least, sloppy. Petty wrote his works for specific purposes and audiences and in response to specific events. In 1654 he was a young physician from an artisanal family, on the make in a conquered country. In 1671 he was a substantial landowner with court connections and a knighthood, trying to defend and exploit vast Irish estates and to influence royal policy. There is no basis whatever for treating Petty’s ideas in 1671 as evidence of Cromwell’s in 1654.

Having tied Petty’s later economic work to Cromwellian Ireland, Donoghue presents his evidence that Petty (and therefore Cromwell) sought to enslave the Irish. The quotation Donoghue gives — quoted as if it comes from The Political Anatomy — in fact splices passages from two different works of Petty’s, taking each wildly out of context. Here is the quotation as Donoghue presents it, on pp.26-27 of his piece. Note the ellipsis:

You value the people who have been destroyed in Ireland as slaves and negroes are usually rated, viz, at about 15 one with another; men being sold for 25, children for 5… why should not insolvent thieves be punished with slavery rather than death. So as being slaves they may be forced to as much labour, and as cheap fare, as nature will endure, and thereby become as two men added to the commonwealth, and not as one taken away from it.

Donoghue uses this to argue that Petty’s work in Ireland “led him to conclude that, rather than destroying the Irish, English interests in the colonies would be best served by enslaving them like ‘negroes’”. And this, he writes, “proves that some very powerful members of the Cromwellian regime envisioned enslaving Irish and ‘negroes’ in parallel fashion.” Even if The Political Anatomy could speak for Cromwell, Donoghue’s claims here rest on spurious evidence.

The first part of Donoghue’s quotation (before the ellipsis) is taken from p.21 of The Political Anatomy of Ireland (London, 1691). It occurs in the course of Petty’s attempt to calculate the cost of war in Ireland during 1641-52 in monetary terms. Here is the passage as it appears in the 1691 edition. Portions omitted by Donoghue are in bold:

The value of people, Men, Women, and Children in England, some have computed to be about 70 l. per Head, one with another. But if you value the people who have been destroyed in Ireland as Slaves and Negroes are usually rated, viz., at about 15 l. one with another; Men being sold for 25 l., Children for 5 l; the value of people lost will be about 10,335,000[.]

Petty is estimating the cost of Irish lives lost in 1641-52, using the price of enslaved Africans as a basis. He is not suggesting that the Irish be enslaved.

The second part of Donoghue’s quotation (after the ellipsis) comes from Petty’s Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (London, 1662). The passage it comes from discusses the advantages of enslaving rather than executing criminals – English ones. Here it is as it appears in the 1662 edition (at p.49). Parts omitted by Donoghue are bolded:

Why should not insolvent Thieves be rather punished with slavery then death? so as being slaves they may be forced to as much labour, and as cheap fare, as nature will endure, and thereby become as two men added to the Commonwealth, and not as one taken away from it; for if England be under-peopled (suppose by half), I say that next to the bringing in of as many more as now are, is the making these that are, to do double the work which now they do; that is, to make some slaves; but of this elsewhere.

In short, neither part of Donoghue’s ostensible proof of Petty’s (and, by extension, Cromwell’s) intent to enslave the Irish relates to any such idea. The first part estimates the cost of Irish lives lost between 1641 and 1652; the second does not concern the Irish, or colonial plantation, at all. Neither comes from the 1650s.

I do not know how Donoghue came to present a composite quotation as legitimate historical evidence. I do not know whether he did so deliberately or through negligence. But the sources in question are widely accessible in print and online. And Donoghue has used the same spurious quotation more than once before, notably in his book Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (University of Chicago Press, 2013), where it appears on p.260 in the midst of a similar account of Petty. If these were innocent mistakes — or just one mistake, reused — that still suggests a failure to consult works cited as evidence for significant and contentious historical claims. Grounding claims about the past in an assessment of the sources is a basic part of historical practice.

But Donoghue’s motives are irrelevant to the larger issue. However it came about, what we have now is a tendentious account of the past, based on a source that does not (as quoted) exist, weaved together from real sources that have nothing to do with the claims being made. The error has long since been made made known to the magazine. The real sources of Petty’s purported argument for enslaving the Irish have been demonstrated. But the article and the quotation stand, with no hint of correction, retraction, or editorial comment forthcoming. Like the myth of Irish slavery itself, the value of spurious sources has been left to be disputed in the letters page — fodder for an equally spurious “debate”.

It should go without saying — though it evidently can’t — that historians can and do differ over the questions they care about and the methods they prefer, as well as over the selection and interpretation of sources. They therefore differ, too, over the “facts” of history: not just which events, people, or processes mattered most (or should matter most to us today), but also over what they were and how they were related — that is, over what the past was like, how it worked, what it meant, and what really happened. Naive invocations of “the facts” in opposition to new interpretations of the past are usually just that: naive. They overlook the human work, the series of inevitable and contestable choices, and the layers of more or less tacit constraints that go into constituting any set of claims as “facts” in the first place.

Still, recognizing that a variety of scholars pursuing a variety of approaches produces a variety of histories does not mean that anything goes. It is telling, if also ironic, that History Ireland published Donoghue’s piece under the rubric of “myth-busting”: as a category, this implies a distinction between views of the past based in the scholarly practices historians avow and beliefs not so grounded. At a time when the quality of public discourse about history and much else is degraded by fantasies and half-truths, and the capacity of experts to present and defend their research is under ever greater assault, allegiance to this distinction brings obligations. It obliges us to distinguish ranting and abuse from criticism grounded in knowledge of sources and methods. It obliges us to distinguish real from spurious evidence. It obliges us to substantiate our claims and to own and address our errors. It obliges us to promote real debate for the sake of advancing knowledge — not to debase our knowledge for the sake of debate.


[1] Full disclosure: I wrote a book about him. See Ted McCormick, William Petty and the Ambitions of Political Arithmetic (Oxford University Press, 2009).

15 thoughts on “How to Change History: William Petty, Irish slavery, and a fake debate

  1. Pingback: History Ireland Magazine and the Ancient Order of Shitebernians | vox hiberionacum

  2. This is John Donoghue writing. Ted McCormick received my explanation behind the mistake I made with the Petty quotation weeks ago. In late August, History Ireland sent me McCormick’s first response to my article, a letter to the editor, where he accused me of fabricating the quotation. I drafted a response explaining the mistake, which was then given to McCormick. As I explained in my response, I had misread quotations from Petty in a secondary source where they all appear in the text as if they came from The Political Anatomy. The mistake with this quotation first appeared in my book, Fire under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (Chicago, 2013) on p. 260. Here, in FN 36, I cite the secondary work, Linebaugh and Rediker’s Many-Headed Hydra, as the source of my Petty quotation. Why McCormick ignored or disregarded this citation, which would have immediately clarified how the mistake was made, is anybody’s guess. He could have consulted me and I would have happily written a correction for History Ireland. But with this footnote on the record, and having been sent my explanation for the mistake (I’m assuming he read it), McCormick conceals this knowledge to speculate on whether the quotation resulted from an innocent mistake or a deliberate effort to misuse evidence. The gist of his blog seems to support the latter conclusion. He also makes the accusation that my scholarship on the enslavement of the Irish is more sinister than the now infamous AOH letter, which repeated many myths about Irish slavery that have been debunked by Liam Hogan, a letter that also defamed Hogan AND me as bigots. To sum up, I made a mistake in the way I quoted William Petty. I also may be wrong about Petty’s thoughts on colonial transportation and enslavement and how these possibly relate to the Down Survey. In the end, however, my argument neither rises nor falls on William Petty’s work. Below I have copied my letter to History Ireland which will appear in the next issue. It clarifies how the mistake with the quotation occurred.
    My letter to History Ireland:

    Ted McCormick has correctly identified an error that I made in quoting William Petty. I attribute a block quotation to William Petty’s The Political Anatomy of Ireland (1691). In fact, the two sections of the quotation in question come from this work as well as The Treatise of Taxes and Contributions (1662). I apologize to the readers of History Ireland for the mistake.

    The disputed quotation first appeared in my book, Fire Under the Ashes: An Atlantic History of the English Revolution (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013), p.260. The quotation was drawn from the discussion of The Political Anatomy of Ireland in the text of Marcus Rediker and Peter Linebaugh’s The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon, 2000). In the paragraph beginning on pg. 146 that continues on pg. 147, Rediker and Linebaugh identify The Political Anatomy as the source for their discussion of Petty. All the quotations from Petty that they include in this paragraph appear in the text as if they came from this work. In my discussion of Petty in Fire under the Ashes (pg.260), I draw largely on Linebaugh and Rediker’s work mentioned above. From my reading of the text, I thought that all of the Petty quotations came from The Political Anatomy. The block quotation from Petty that appears on page 260 of my book uses separate quotations that Rediker and Linebaugh list on p. 147. I denote the separate quotations through the use of ellipses:

    “You value the people who have been destroyed in Ireland as slaves and negroes are usually rated, viz,. at about 15 one with another; men being sold for 25, children for 5…Why should not insolvent thieves be punished with slavery rather than death. So as being slaves they may be forced to as much labour, and as cheap fare, as nature will endure, and thereby become as two men added to the commonwealth, and not as one taken away from it.”

    I cite my quotation of Petty in footnote 36 on pg. 347. It reads: “Petty quoted in Rediker and Linebaugh, Many-Headed Hydra, 146-147.” Instead of assuming that the quotations in a paragraph discussing The Political Anatomy all came from this source, I should have checked Linebaugh and Rediker’s footnotes for this paragraph, which cite both The Political Anatomy of Ireland and The Treatise of Taxes and Contributions. The oversight led to an honest mistake in my History Ireland article, where I attribute the quotation to one source.

    It should be clear that my argument does not rise and fall on William Petty’s thinking about colonial transportation. It is beyond dispute that the Cromwellian regime sanctioned the sale of thousands of Irish Catholics into term-bound, chattel bondage. There is an abundance of evidence that Cromwellian officials carried out such a policy, one that they also employed in Scotland and England against poor people, felons, and political prisoners. Many contemporaries regarded the colonial bondage the transported endured as a form of slavery, not the perpetual, racially-categorized slavery imposed upon Africans in the Americas, but chattel slavery nonetheless.

    Perhaps, as McCormick writes, Petty did not support colonial transportation, but the evidence is not as clear as McCormick insists. McCormick correctly observes that Petty believed Ireland and England were underpopulated, but this does not mean that Petty was necessarily against the policy of colonial transportation. The wider context of the Cromwellian conquest and the colonial transportation policy, which outdated the conquest, could provide the answer.

    Petty recommended enslaving British thieves, his fellow countrymen, in 1662. The only place where British (or Irish people) could be reduced to a form of chattel bondage in 1662 was in the colonies (most of them were sent to the Barbados). Clearly, Petty did not recommend the wholesale transplantation and enslavement of Irish Catholics. But given that Petty recommended British thieves for enslavement in 1662, it’s hard to see how, in the 1650s, that he would have objected to the colonial transportation of Irish thieves or others, such as the partisan fighters called ‘tories’ that the British regarded as undesirable segments of the population. The fact that he assessed the monetary value of Irish people on equivalent terms with African slaves when he wrote The Political Anatomy in 1671 suggests the colonies were never far from his mind when thinking about the productive value of people in Britain and Ireland who posed some kind of political threat or social problem at home.

    But McCormick’s objections and Petty’s thinking aside, the over-arching argument that I make about Irish slavery and the Cromwellian Conquest in History Ireland has been judged worthy of serious scholarly consideration in many notable venues, including the American Historical Review, which many view as the most prestigious and rigorously peer-reviewed journal for historical scholarship.


    • Thanks for your comment. I did not address your explanation here simply because it was not, before now, public. (It surprises me that you were not shown the response to it I sent to History Ireland.) But I’m happy to do so.

      I am, as you say, aware that you cite Linebaugh and Rediker (The Many-Headed Hydra, pp.146-147) as your source for the quotation — both in your book (p.260). I do not see that this footnote actually explains anything. On p.147 of their book, Linebaugh and Rediker quote the two passages that you combine. But they quote the passages separately; they footnote each separately; and they identify correctly the different works from which each comes. They do not suggest that the two are from the same work. Moreover, they explicitly set each quotation in a different context. Nor do they suggest that either portion concerns Irish slavery. So you did not get either the conflation of the two quotes or the connection to Irish slavery from them. To my mind, then, citing Linebaugh and Rediker does not explain any significant part of the problem. It does, however, appear to confirm that you have not actually looked at the primary source(s) that you have repeatedly alleged as evidence.

      As I tried to make clear above, I have no stake in the “innocence” or otherwise of the mistake. What bothers me is that a demonstrably false set of claims about an area of history I know something about are being advanced both in public and in academic work using a spurious source. On Twitter, I did use the word “concocted” (to describe the quotation) in its plainest sense: on your own account, the quotation you use is, literally, the result of mixing different sources together. I am aware of no corner of the profession in which such a mixture qualifies as a proper use of sources. Nor does that change if it was done inadvertently. The damage is the same.


  3. Thanks for posting my comment. Obviously you should have mentioned my explanation in your blog and your tweets. There’s no excuse for not doing so. Concealing this information prevents your followers from considering your points within the context of how the mistake happened. This is simply unfair. Additionally, you SHOULD be concerned with whether a mistake with evidence occurred innocently or through deliberate intent -we’re all prone to the first while the second constitutes academic fraud. I am guilty of the first, not the second. You are also wrong about how I used the quotations from Linebaugh and Rediker. I did not consult their footnotes -only the text where they discuss The Political Anatomy. I’ve written you repeatedly on this point, but you insist in your reply here that this was not the case. You are right to say that I should have gone directly to The Political Anatomy itself, but I’m hardly the first historian who has occasionally cited quotations via a secondary source. Finally, my reading of Linebaugh and Rediker on Petty did indeed suggest to me, given the earlier context of Petty’s work with the Cromwellian regime, which occurred during the height of colonial transportation, that Petty had envisioned enslaving the Irish in a way that would extract a labor value equivalent to that of the purchase price of enslaved Africans. I might very well be wrong on this point, but again, my argument in HI and other publications neither rises nor falls on the work of William Petty, although your blog and tweets suggest that it does. Ted, I only hope that if you ever make a mistake with evidence or an interpretation that other scholars will treat you with more consideration, generosity, and justice than you have treated me.


    • My purpose here is not to vilify you. I am concerned with the misrepresentation of a source and the consequences of that misrepresentation. These do not depend on your intentions. Of course, I agree that there is a large ethical difference between fraud and error. But what I am concerned with is the effect of a spurious quotation on the presentation of a contentious historical issue to a wide audience. That effect is the same whether the quotation appeared through malice or, as seems to be the case here, neglect.

      If Liam Hogan’s work has shown anything, it is that misread, misquoted, or mis-contextualized sources can have immensely long and harmful afterlives, particularly once they enter the public realm. The history of the “Irish slaves” meme is very largely the story of just such an afterlife. I do not think you are on the same page politically or intellectually as Mike McCormack. But I do think it more than likely that he, and others of his persuasion, derive benefit from putative evidence that their fantasies are real — even if that evidence is furnished with the best of intentions, by someone concerned with racial justice rather than white resentment.


  4. This exchange seems to have lost sight of the larger issue. John Donoghue may have misinterpreted a source, but the larger issue is that he has done so in service of an argument that is possibly nefarious and definitely wrong. Donoghue argues that that the Irish experienced “term-bound, chattel bondage,” but that phrase is a contradiction. Chattel slavery defined people as property for life and as an innate and inheritable condition. There is nothing “term-bound” about it. African slavery was not the same as, or equivalent to, Irish indentured servitude. To claim otherwise is, as I said, possibly nefarious and definitely wrong.


    • Point well taken. The argument in the History Ireland piece derives much of its power from an ambiguous use of terminology. Donoghue refers, accurately enough, to there having been different “kinds” of slavery through history. This allows him to bring the Irish into the dicussion without needing to claim that they were subject to the same “kind” as Africans. But he then collapses other uses of the language of “slavery” in the period by referring indiscriminately to Irish and African “chattel” (and treating impressionistic reportage like Ligon’s as analytically decisive), implying that there was no very great difference — beyond a “legal fiction” — between permanent, heritable enslavement and fixed-term indenture. As I noted in the post, I avoided going into this part of the question — for reasons of length, in the first instance. A thorough response to the argument needs a different venue than this.


      • Dear Ted and Michael,

        Besides my work on the chattel condition of indentured servitude and the argument that it constituted a kind of slavery (not to be confused with the racially-justified, perpetual enslavement of people of African descent), you should also consider the following scholarship:

        Hilary Beckles, White Servitude and Black Slavery in Barbados, 1627-1715. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989.

        “The Colours of Property: Brown, White and Black Chattels and their Responses on the Caribbean
        Frontier,” Slavery & Abolition vol. 15 no. 2 (1994): 36-51.

        “The Concept of “White Slavery in the English Caribbean During the Early Seventeenth Century,” in
        John Brewer and Susan Staves, ed., Early Modern Conceptions of Property (London: Routledge,

        Simon Newman. A New World of Labor: The Development of Plantation Slavery in the British Atlantic. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013.

        Jerome Handler and Matt Reilly present their critique of our views in “Contesting “White Slavery” in the Caribbean: Enslaved Africans and European Indentured Servants in Seventeeth-Century Barbados.” New West Indian Guide 91: 30-55.

        Handler and Reilly are much more concerned with Newman and Beckles’ work than with mine. I of course find Handler and Reilly’s critique unconvincing -to my view, it simply rehashes all the arguments that Beckles, Newman, and I have deconstructed in our scholarship. I also took exception to their charge that our work is “disingenuous” in the way that it allegedly fuels white surpremacist narratives of the history of slavery. It’s worth noting here that Hilary Beckles is one of the world’s leading voices in the reparations movement. If you’re interested, you should check out his 2013 book, Britain’s Black Debt: Reparations for Slavery and Native Genocide.

        If you are interested in plunging into this literature, I think you’ll find that the subject is more complex than you now think, and that it is truly worthy of a civil, scholarly debate that can be conducted without implying that one side abets white supremacism.

        I’d be happy to correspond with both of you on the subject.

        All the best,


    • There is such a thing as term-bound chattel. It doesn’t however make them slaves. And that is crucial. I spent a year examining legal dictionaries, and you can be chattel for a short period:
      chattel can be divided into absolute and qualified: “Absolute property” was when the “owner has a complete title and full dominion”, while “qualified property” was when the owner “has a temporary or special interest, liable to be totally divested on the happening of some particular event”. Bouvier, A Law Dictionary, 2:333, 394. This qualified chattel also applied to ‘real’ chattel, as in the lease of a property see: William Nelson, An Abridgment of the Common Law: Being a Collection of the Principal Cases Argued and Adjudged in the Several Courts of Westminster-Hall. Brought Down to the Year 1725, vol. 2 (London: Printed by E. and R. Nutt and R. Gosling, 1725), 800–802.
      In some cases, “real” qualified chattel was also applied to “Body of the Ward” (children): Manley, Nomothetas: The Interpreter, sec. “catalls.” Also 1616 Bullokar “Chattels real are wards” As quoted in James Augustus Henry Murray, A New English Dictionary on Historical Principles, vol. II C (Clarendon Press, 1893), 302.
      When “the possessor has only a property of a qualified nature, he is entitled to the property while it continues in like manner as if he was absolute owner.” Kent, Commentaries on American Law, 202.

      While this makes servants chattel, it does not make them slaves. There is a real need to not use these terms as synonymous.


  5. This bibliography does not mitigate the problems raised here. It is one thing to claim that slavery took many forms. It is another to reduce differences between the handling of indentured servants (whether we choose to call their servitude “a form of slavery” or not) and of enslaved Africans to a matter of “legal fiction”, with the implication that this had minimal import for material conditions and experience. It is another thing, again, to suggest that the use of “slavery” in political discourse is simply irrelevant in interpreting seventeenth-century comment, or to take period invective as a straightforward reflection of social reality. And it is still another to use spurious evidence to support the contention that the Irish were intended for a “parallel” fate to that of enslaved Africans. Taken as a whole the argument in History Ireland does not read as a careful effort to distinguish between different degrees or types of unfree labor; it reads as invoking the complexity of the subject in order to obscure differences that mattered. I don’t see why Beckles’s stance on reparations is relevant to the analytical value of his historical work; authorial intentions are not proof against misreading or misuse. But then I don’t think that Irish/Irish-American solidarity with Black Lives Matter should depend on believing that the Irish were enslaved, either.


    • OK, Ted. You clearly don’t understand my argument and don’t find it worthwhile to follow up on my other work -or that of other scholars who share my view. I didn’t provide the short list of references to ‘mitigate’ anything. All that I wanted to do was pass on a few references, for your consideration, that speak to the issues as stake. Your last reply makes it clear that you’re not interested in what I’ve suggested, having a civil debate about the servitude/slavery issue. Instead, you’ve insisted that the arguments of those who disagree with you are the product of misreading and/or misusing evidence. I’ve responded through several posts on your blog to dissuade you from the idea that there is a “fake” academic debate about servitude’s relationship with slavery. It doesn’t seem like my effort has or will bear any fruit -so, best of luck to you and don’t hesitate to reach out in the future if you’re interested in conducting a serious and thoughtful discussion.


      • Civil debate, like scholarly discussion, is premised on common adherence to shared norms. The point of this post and the last was that some issues are not matters for debate in that sense — such as whether long-debunked myths should be reasserted on the basis of discredited or imagined sources, or whether nonexistent sources can furnish a legitimate basis for historical claims.

        In different ways, and with different degrees of intent, both McCormack’s letter and your piece fail to meet the standards normally associated with historical research (which surely include consulting, identifying, and accurately representing sources). To bring debunked myths and nonexistent sources into the realm of legitimate differences of interpretation is to debase public discussion of history. This, not the historical question of servitude versus slavery, was my explicit focus. I may not agree with your reading of the actually existing sources that you quote, either; but my subject in this post was the nonexistent one.

        I am well aware of the literature on different labor regimes that developed in the early modern Atlantic world, and that there are different views within that literature over the relationship between servitude and slavery. That is a real debate. AOH maunderings and concocted Petty quotes do not advance it. History Ireland’s tacit position that they do is what I meant by “fake debate”, as a more attentive reading of the original post might make clear.


  6. Pingback: How to Change History: William Petty, Irish slavery, and a fake debate | A New Ulster

  7. John, this is one of those issues where you cannot cede any ground. Nor do you have to; the evidence is clear that Africans were enslaved while the Irish were not.

    Those who push this lie are racists liars. They will not be civil, as in this form. They will use and abuse any ambiguity as they see fit, dragging you down with them. Scholarly discussion can only take place in civil forums like this; racists are not civil, either to evidence or people who fudge it.

    It has been alarming to see how this racist lie has spread from the USA to here in Ireland. The general tactic, as in the USA, is to post something as ambiguous as your article, therefore allowing ‘discussion’. The tactic was practised a couple of times some years ago on the Facebook page of the Genealogical Society of Ireland. It was a core activity, and continues to be, at the Irish DNA facebook page (I was expelled for challenging the admin, Michael Rice, over doing this; someone else will have to see what he’s up to these days and how well that goes down with DNA companies). Now its spread to HI.

    John, you are incredibly lucky that McCormack’s letter has deflected attention away from your article, but that will not last. From reading the above, my impression is you don’t fully grasp how serious this may yet be to you (I may be wrong). You can, and should, be blunt in language on this subject precisely because the evidence supports you.


  8. Pingback: History in the Toilet | memorious

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