The best books about Ireland in the 17th century

Who am I?

Nancy Blanton is an American author of Irish descent. She’s written three award-winning Irish historical novels and has a fourth underway. A former journalist, her focus on the 17th century derives from a history lesson about Oliver Cromwell, weariness of Tudor stories, decades of enlightening research, and a little help from supportive friends in County Cork.

I wrote...

When Starlings Fly as One

By Nancy Blanton,

Book cover of When Starlings Fly as One

What is my book about?

Based on a true story of the 1641 Rebellion and Ireland's longest siege, When Starlings Fly as One is not a classic hero’s journey, but a story of war, struggle, spirit, and survival—a story of two sides.

Secretive and often bold, Merel de Vries seeks only escape from the English nobility she serves. When Rathbarry Castle is besieged by rising Irish clans, she faces an impossible choice: allegiance to owner Sir Arthur Freke, loyalty to new-found love Tynan O’Daly, and inner yearnings belonging to her alone. Merel insists she can help—but no one will listen. When opportunity comes, can she truly do what her spirit urges? Or, will a sudden betrayal change everything?

The books I picked & why

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Nine Lives Of John Ogilby

By Alan Ereira,

Book cover of Nine Lives Of John Ogilby

Why this book?

While not specifically about Ireland, this is a most fascinating tale and true story about a man who started as a dancer, ran theater in Ireland, became a soldier, sea captain and so much more before he went on to publish the first road atlas in Britain. It’s the quirky details in this book that make it fun to read and quite informative about life in the 17th century.

The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates

By Des Ekin,

Book cover of The Stolen Village: Baltimore and the Barbary Pirates

Why this book?

In 1631, the small fishing village of Baltimore in West Cork, Ireland, was attacked by Algerian pirates. About 100 villagers were carried away to a life of slavery. Known as “the Sack of Baltimore,” it was considered the most devastating Islamic invasion in Ireland or England. Yet, greed, politics and intrigue played major roles in the event that had little to do with pirates. Written by a journalist, this book reveals the struggles and dangers faced in by ordinary people in Early Modern times.

Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland

By Padraig Lenihan, Clodagh Tait, David Edwards

Book cover of Age of Atrocity: Violence and Political Conflict in Early Modern Ireland

Why this book?

Notorious for its violence, the 17th century is also a time of sweeping change. Change ignites resistance. When I first started researching Irish history, I was well aware of Cromwell’s march, and soon discovered much more and perhaps worse. How could people survive under constant threat and fear? How could humans justify such cruelty? This book examines several horrific events, the people and the policies that allowed them to happen—in the interest of learning from history that which we should never repeat.

Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses

By Lucy Worsley,

Book cover of Cavalier: A Tale of Chivalry, Passion, and Great Houses

Why this book?

Also not specifically set in Ireland, this book reveals in wonderful detail what life was like in the great manor houses of both England and Ireland. Such houses distinguished the 17th century from the age of castles and fortresses, and were lavishly constructed and furnished as tangible statements of power and wealth. You’ll learn what daily life was like from chambermaid to earl.


By Antonia Fraser,

Book cover of Cromwell

Why this book?

For those who like biographies, this story of Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) follows him from young man to gentleman farmer, reluctant politician, military leader, regicide, and Lord Protector of England. To me, Cromwell will always be the cold destroyer who led his most brutal and devastating army across Ireland after England’s civil war. But, there are many differing opinions. This interesting read presents all sides of the man, so you can be the judge. 

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Ireland, World War 2, and London?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Ireland, World War 2, and London.

Ireland Explore 120 books about Ireland
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like The Civil Wars in Britain and Ireland, Field Guide to the Bees of Great Britain and Ireland, and Fringe, Frog and Tassel if you like this list.