Borlase, Edmund (d. 1682), historian, is recorded first as a young man in 1642. His father, Sir John Borlase (qv), was major-general of ordnance in Ireland in 1634, and served as a lord justice between 1640 and 1643. Edmund may have attended TCD. In 1642, however, he was in England. Later (1650) he studied medicine at Leiden, and practised on his return in Chester. Despite a family background sympathetic to radical protestantism and the parliamentarian cause, he was patronised by the royalist Stanleys, earls of Derby. Through marriage, the Stanleys were drawn into the orbit of James Butler (qv), earl, marquess, and later duke of Ormond, and adversary of the elder Borlase in the 1640s. The son's medical interests resulted in a treatise on the health-giving properties of Latham Spa, on the Derby estate, published in 1670. A more substantial work appeared in 1675, The reduction of Ireland to the crown of England. This marked his début as a writer on recent Irish history. He may have been inspired by a wish to vindicate the political stance of the group in Dublin to which his father had belonged. Remnants of that faction – Bishop Henry Jones (qv), Dr Dudley Loftus (qv), the earls of Anglesey (qv) and Orrery (qv) – survived. They furnished Borlase with materials for The history of the execrable Irish rebellion (1680), a bulkier version of the Reduction. More surprisingly, he also had access to the as yet unpublished account by Clarendon of Ireland in the 1640s. Borlase, despite political differences, shared Clarendon's antipathy towards the Irish catholics.
Borlase's compilations marked opening shots in the polemical warfare of the 1680s in which more prominent public figures, such as Castlehaven (qv), Anglesey, and Sir Robert Southwell (qv), would fight. His laborious chronicles owe as much to the revived anti-catholicism of the 1670s as to his understanding of the 1640s of which they treat. In 1679 the future archbishop of Canterbury, John Tillotson, commended them as ‘so seasonable at the present time and so useful to posterity’ (BL, Sloane MS 1008, f. 210). Others flattered less, dismissing them as ‘a long fustian apology’ (HMC, Ormonde MSS, new ser., iv, 529), patched together from Clarendon and Sir John Temple. Borlase died (5 January 1682) before he could contribute more to the arguments.
Correspondence to Borlase is in BL, Sloane MS 1008; an interleaved copy of the History, with notes (perhaps for a new edition), is in BL, Stowe MS 82.