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Renaissance and Reformation Oliver Cromwell
by
Sarah Covington

Introduction

More than any other figure of 17th-century England, Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658) leaves behind a complex and debated legacy, assuming different guises according to the changing preoccupations of the times. In the Victorian period, he was interpreted as a harbinger of religious toleration and modern liberal ideals, whereas other estimations emphasized his role as a ruthless and devious political operator. So elusive is his persona—with his words holding an ambiguous relationship to his actions—that he has variously been likened to Machiavelli, the duke of Marlborough, Robespierre, Hitler, and even the late President Zia of Pakistan. New biographies and studies are published every year, reflecting continued fascination with the man and his career. Though each assessment of Cromwell claims to be the definitive and truest one, as one biographer, Peter Gaunt, has written, we can be sure that “future generations may disagree.”

General Overviews

A number of edited collections have been published on Cromwell, many containing significant essays by leading authorities in the field. Morrill 1990 remains perhaps the most valuable collection and has been frequently cited for thirty years; the introduction and the editor’s own piece on Cromwell’s early life are particularly useful. Smith 2003 is important for bringing together the most influential and classic articles on Cromwell’s life and rule, while Aylmer 1972 presents a varied overview of different subjects by leading experts of their respective subjects. Little 2009, while lacking a unifying thread—except for the subject of Cromwell himself—is also important for the student who seeks an overview of the most recent approaches and scholarly treatments of the man and his reign. Finally, Ashley 1969 is a helpful introduction to Cromwell’s speeches and writings, with commentary by modern scholars.

  • Ashley, Maurice, ed. Cromwell. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1969.

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    Part of the “Great Lives Observed” series, this useful, student-directed volume contains excerpts from Cromwell’s own words, broken down according to thematic chapters, as well as selections of writings about Cromwell from contemporaries and historians up through the 20th century.

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  • Aylmer, G. E, ed. The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement, 1646–1660. London: Macmillan, 1972.

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    An important volume of eight essays by leading historians of the period, covering all aspects of the ruler in this period.

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  • Little, Patrick. Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    An excellent current overview of different episodes of Cromwell’s life and rule, rather than his career as a whole. In not taking Cromwell at his own words, many of the contributors emphasize his actual ruthlessness and cunning as a politician.

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  • Morrill, John, ed. Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. London: Longman, 1990.

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    An extremely influential and requisite collection of ten essays by leading historians that covers the range of Cromwell’s life and career.

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  • Smith, David Lawrence, ed. Cromwell and the Interregnum: The Essential Readings. London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2003.

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    A highly useful compendium of the most important recent articles on Cromwell during the Interregnum, bringing in Scotland and Ireland as well as England.

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Bibliographies

An up-to-date and comprehensive bibliography of Cromwell is needed, though helpful references to him abound in many biographies and monographs. Abbott 1929 is a dated work, though indispensable for students researching the older scholarship as well as 17th-century sources relating to Cromwell, while Morrill 1980, Davies and Keeler 1970, and the Bibliography of British and Irish History contain more recent and extensive sections on Cromwell or aspects of his career.

  • Abbott, W. C. A Bibliography of Oliver Cromwell: A List of Printed Materials Relating to Oliver Cromwell, Together with a List of Portraits and Caricatures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1929.

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    A dated work on the secondary sources, but still very useful in the compilation of material, including contemporary writings and portraiture.

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  • Davies, Godfrey, and M. F. Keeler, eds. Bibliography of British History: Stuart Period, 1603–1714. 2d ed. Oxford: Clarendon, 1970.

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    Issued under the direction of the Royal Historical Society and the American Historical Association, this enormous bibliography ranges across all aspects of the period and provides good coverage of the scholarship, including works relating to Cromwell up to 1970.

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  • Institute for Historical Research. Bibliography of British and Irish History.

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    An essential online guide to books and articles published each year, divided by period and topic, with a good index. Searchable by Cromwell.

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    • Morrill, John. Seventeenth-Century Britain, 1603–1714. Critical Bibliographies in Modern History. Hamden, CT: Archon, 1980.

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      A very useful guide divided into sections covering government and politics, and constitutional, ecclesiastical, economic, cultural, and social history, with an emphasis on the latest research up to 1980. Critical and descriptive comments, including introductions, accompany the citations of books and articles.

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    Letters and Speeches

    Many of Cromwell’s speeches and letters—of the latter, he wrote several hundred—were published in his lifetime or are preserved in the British Museum or Bodleian Library. Historians have long worked these sources, though as Ronald Hutton has pointed out, the student must avoid using Cromwell’s own words alone as “the basis for an assessment of him,” particularly when no manuscripts survive, for example, of his speeches. A number of editions of his writings exist, with Abbott (Cromwell 1989b) remaining the standard edition for scholars and students; Morrill 1990 should be consulted, however, for his warnings concerning the shortfalls of Abbott and other works in terms of the selective editing process they deploy. As pointed out in Morrill 1990, similar problems exist in Carlyle (Cromwell 1904), though this and other editions remain standard works to which scholars continue to refer. Stainer (Cromwell 1901) also offers a useful overview of Cromwell’s speeches, while Roots (Cromwell 1989a) provides a more recent and critical edition of those speeches.

    • Cromwell, Oliver. Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, 1644–1658. Edited by C. L. Stainer. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1901.

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      An under-appreciated yet very good collection of fifty-five speeches, with useful annotations.

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    • Cromwell, Oliver. The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell, with Elucidations by Thomas Carlyle. 3 vols. Edited by Thomas Carlyle; with notes, supplement, and enlarged index by S. C. Lomas. London: Methuen, 1904.

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      This classic work by the great Victorian man of letters transformed Cromwell’s reputation, its commentary serving to cast the man in the heroic-godly mold after two centuries of more mixed treatment. The Lomas edition, however, tones down what has been called Carlyle’s “exuberance,” evident in the 1845 edition, and provides clearer editorial guidance with running titles and other paratextual matter.

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    • Cromwell, Oliver. Speeches of Oliver Cromwell. Edited by Ivan Roots. London: Dent, 1989a.

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      A more recent edition of Cromwell’s speeches, which in Roots’s words “can be presented with reasonable confidence as a basis for an assessment of Oliver as an orator, his style, and the thrust and content of his attempts to persuade and dissuade groups.” Also available in paperback (London: Everyman, 2002).

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    • Cromwell, Oliver. The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell. Edited by Wilbur Cortez Abbott. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989b.

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      First publication, 1937–1947 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press). The principal edition of Cromwell’s writings, though its lack of paratextual guidance and running heads makes it somewhat difficult for the reader to navigate, and its editorial approach can be unreliable and problematic at times.

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    • Morrill, John. “Textualizing and Contextualizing Cromwell.” Historical Journal 33 (1990): 629–639.

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      A sharp and sometimes critical analysis of the sources treating Cromwell, particularly in regard to the weaknesses of Abbott. Important for alerting students to editorial problems in classic works on Cromwell.

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    Biographies

    The “Cromwell: hero or villain” debate continues among historians and biographers attempting to assess the man; studies up through Wedgewood 1994 tended to cast him as a man of “simple” honesty (see Letters and Speeches), or in the case of Fraser 2002 as a man of “private greatness.” The presentation of a “fascist” Cromwell in the 1930s was brought forward most famously by his editor W. C. Abbott (see Letters and Speeches), who likened the Protectorate to “the earliest of modern experiments in dictatorship,” while 1970s scholarship tended to emphasize his role in betraying the revolution he began. In the 1990s and later, Cromwell has tended to be treated sympathetically (if at times critically) in biographies such as Gaunt 2004, with his religious beliefs, based on an abiding notion of providence, determining his character more than any quality of ruthless or Machiavellian ambition. In recent years the mercurial and somewhat ruthless Cromwell has emerged once again, particularly in the works of Bennett 2006 and Coward 1991, though their also favorable treatment carries some echoes from the classic traditional account of Firth 1953. Howell 1977 is also a very good biography, from one of the leading scholars of Cromwell, and Hill 1990 is useful particularly in its perspective of Cromwell as a man representing the interests of the propertied classes.

    • Bennett, Martyn. Oliver Cromwell. London: Routledge, 2006.

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      Very useful and concise biography incorporating recent interpretations and including an updated guide to further reading at the end. Treats Cromwell and his motivations with relative sympathy and is particularly effective in analyzing the relationship between religion and the state in England.

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    • Coward, Barry. Oliver Cromwell. London and New York: Longman, 1991.

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      Not a biography but a study of Cromwell “as a political figure and of the historical problems associated with his exercise of power,” this short book is a valuable contribution that incorporates relatively recent historiographical approaches to revise previous assumptions about Cromwell’s role and consistency in the arena of politics during the 1640s and 1650s.

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    • Firth, C. H. Oliver Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 1953.

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      With S. R. Gardiner, Firth stands as the classic Victorian and early 20th-century interpreter of Cromwell, presenting him as a man of complex yet ultimately admirable character, and an agent of liberalism and toleration. Though dated, it still contains much useful information for the student.

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    • Fraser, Antonia. Cromwell: Our Chief of Men. London: Phoenix, 2002.

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      A popular biography of Cromwell that treats its protagonist sympathetically as it conveys his personal life with a wealth of detail; somewhat weaker on the larger political context beyond the man. Originally published in 1973.

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    • Gaunt, Peter. Oliver Cromwell. New York: New York University Press, 2004.

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      An outstanding and accessible biography that emphasizes the “inherent decency of the man and his regime,” and one who “consistently made the pursuit of liberty his main goal.”

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    • Hill, Christopher. God’s Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1990.

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      Somewhat dated biographical study, but important for the historian behind it. Hill argues for Cromwell as the “saviour of propertied society,” in a conflict where Puritanism masked the decline of the old feudal world and the emergence of “men of property who regarded themselves as the natural rulers of the counties and cities.” Originally published in 1970.

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    • Howell, Roger. Cromwell. Boston: Little Brown, 1977.

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      A well-written and straightforward biographical account that also includes a chapter on contemporary and subsequent assessments of the man. Includes a useful (if dated) annotated section on further reading in the field of Cromwelliana.

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    • Wedgewood, C. V. Oliver Cromwell. Rev. and augm. ed. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1994.

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      A short but classic and vividly conveyed biography of Cromwell, originally written in 1939 (to refute historians who labeled him a dictator) and subsequently revised to present a more balanced picture of a figure who nevertheless remains slippery in his personal and political motivations.

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    Journals

    Articles on Cromwell appear frequently in the scholarly journals, particularly in Past and Present; Cromwelliana, however, is solely devoted to the man and his career and contains up-to-date bibliographies on the latest scholarship.

    Early Life, Parliamentary Career, and the Death of the King

    Cromwell’s early life and parliamentary career tend to be relatively neglected as a focus of study in their own right, though Morrill 1990 and now Healy 2008 have contributed to a significant understanding of this period. Roberts 2009 also explores the early parliamentary career of Cromwell and his effectiveness within that institution, while Sommerville 1990 investigates Cromwell’s general political thought during the period. Woolrych 1987 explores Cromwell’s position from within the context of army politics in 1647, while Morrill and Baker 2003 looks at the evidence of the letters and speeches to understand Cromwell’s position on the regicide.

    • Healy, Simon. “1636: The Unmaking of Oliver Cromwell.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 20–37. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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      A fine reassessment of Cromwell’s personal and religious life in the 1630s, Healy’s piece engages with Morrill’s ground-breaking essay by returning to Cromwell’s early financial dealings with his uncle, specifically over the matter of an inheritance and the famous “conversion” letter.

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    • Morrill, John. “The Making of Oliver Cromwell.” In Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Edited by John Morrill, 19–48. London: Longman, 1990.

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      Essential for any study of Cromwell’s formative years, this article utilizes new archival material to trace the man’s early life and its shaping influences. The youthful Cromwell is presented as unsure of his social status, somewhat down on his luck financially, and relatively late to an evangelical awakening, marking his subsequent rise as nothing less than “great.”

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    • Morrill, John, and Philip Baker. “Oliver Cromwell, the Regicide, and the Sons of Zeruiah.” In Cromwell and the Interregnum: The Essential Readings. Edited by David Smith, 15–36. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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      A painstaking analysis and close reading of Cromwell’s letters and speeches, especially in their biblical allusions, as they preceded and encompassed the regicide in 1649. The authors conclude that Cromwell was reluctant about the regicide, initially preferring abdication and the preservation of the monarchy. Thus he could hold within himself the capacity to be “a bitter opponent of Charles, a reluctant regicide, and a firm monarchist.”

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    • Roberts, Stephen K. “‘One that Would Sit Well at the Mark’: The Early Parliamentary Career of Oliver Cromwell, 1640–1642.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 38–63. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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      Examines Cromwell’s career in the first session of the Long Parliament, until August 1642, when he left to begin his armed resistance to the king. Concludes that Cromwell was a “well-connected parliament-man,” an “effective and dogged advocate” of his causes with an extensive range of skills as he moved “from being an outsider to being an insider” in both parliamentary houses.

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    • Sommerville, Johann. “Oliver Cromwell and English Political Thought.” In Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Edited by John Morrill, 234–258. London: Longman, 1990.

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      Though Sommerville extends his analysis through the 1650s, he also places Cromwell’s political thought in a larger ideological context, beginning in the 1640s. Though Cromwell was not a “deep philosopher,” his firm if at times contradictory political commitments and ideas—for example, to the idea of consent—underlay his actions in refusing the crown.

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    • Woolrych, Austin. Soldiers and Statesmen: The General Council of the Army and its Debates, 1647–1648. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987.

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      Written by one of the leading scholars of 17th-century England, this work explores the crucial year of 1647, when relations among the Long Parliament, the King, the New Model Army, and the Levellers were brought to a point of crisis. Important here is Woolrych’s discussion of Cromwell’s role and influence within army politics during this period.

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    Military Leadership

    Surprisingly few full-length studies of Cromwell’s military career were written until the later 20th century, though individual battles—most notably, Marston Moor (see Individual Battles)—have been treated in a number of important studies. Capp 1989 provides the definitive treatment of Cromwell’s navy, particularly through the lens of social history, while Hainsworth 1997 and Gillingham 1976 focus on the campaigns and purely military aspects of the civil wars; Marshall 2004, Kitson 2004, and Robbins 2003 provide very good studies of Cromwell as a soldier and commander, and the campaigns he influenced. Gentles 1992 is the leading account of the development of the New Model Army, indispensible for any research on the subject; Kishlansky 1979 should be consulted for a revisionist account of the political dimensions of the army’s conception and development.

    • Capp, Bernard. Cromwell’s Navy: The Fleet and the English Revolution, 1648–1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

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      Though tangentially related to Cromwell himself, this excellent study nevertheless provides a comprehensive narrative, as well as a social history, of the navy during the civil wars and Cromwell’s rule. Included in Capp’s analysis is the naval revolt of the Second Civil War, as well as its position under the Commonwealth and its role in politics in general.

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    • Gentles, Ian. The New Model Army in England, Ireland, and Scotland, 1645–1653. Oxford: Blackwell, 1992.

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      Within this major and unsurpassed study of the New Model Army, Gentles gives a thorough account of Cromwell’s military leadership while also presenting the lieutenant-general as religiously sincere and thoroughly committed to the revolutionary program (which included the execution of Charles). A skillful treatment as well of Cromwell’s evolution from soldier to political figure, particularly in the waning months of the Rump Parliament.

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    • Gillingham, John. Cromwell, Portrait of a Soldier. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1976.

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      A short and straightforward narrative account of Cromwell’s military campaigns, with maps and descriptions of strategy and tactical maneuvers on the field.

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    • Hainsworth, D. Roger. The Swordsmen in Power: War and Politics Under the English Republic, 1649–1660. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1997.

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      A well-written and informed work that is especially strong on warfare, if less so on politics.

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    • Kishlansky, Mark. The Rise of the New Model Army. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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      Not a military so much as a political history of the New Model Army, this revisionist work argues that the army it did not emerge from radical politics but was born and developed from motives of consensus and compromise, at least until 1647.

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    • Kitson, Frank. Old Ironsides: The Military Biography of Oliver Cromwell. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2004.

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      A clear and practical account of Cromwell’s campaigns and career, written by a non-academic military specialist and commander. Basing his claims on existing secondary research, with limited footnotes, Kitson nevertheless presents with authority an image of Cromwell as a great commander, though his prominence was not on full display until the campaigns of 1648–1651.

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    • Marshall, Alan. Oliver Cromwell, Soldier: The Military Life of a Revolutionary at War. London: Brassey’s, 2004.

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      Marshall’s military life of Cromwell not only recounts the famous battles, but insightfully presents his active soldiering skills as well military philosophy—a philosophy devoted to aggression and “wars of annihilation” that could either bring quick victory or counterproductive brutality, revealing “sometimes faulty generalship.”

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    • Robbins, Simon. God’s General: Cromwell the Soldier. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 2003.

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      A dense and highly detailed study of Cromwell, “a born soldier and a military genius,” particularly in his capacity as leader and organizer of the New Model Army, a “military machine” whose effectiveness was more important to generalship “than tactical or strategic brilliance on the field of battle.”

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    Individual Battles

    Single-battle studies of the civil wars have been plentiful in the field of military history, and while Cromwell was not always a central figure in these conflicts—Thomas Fairfax, for example, very much exercised prominence from the parliamentary side—his presence nevertheless pervades many of the studies. Marston Moor, the largest battle of the First Civil War, if not the most decisive, receives comprehensive analysis from Young 1970, but is more effectively examined in Newman 1981 and, from an archaeological perspective, by Newman and Roberts 2003. Naseby, which resulted in the defeat of Charles in 1645, receives extensive coverage in Young 1985 and Foard 1995. The battle of Preston, which ended the Second Civil War in 1648, is well treated in Bull and Seed 1998. In its bringing together these and other important civil war campaigns, Wanklyn 2006 is important in terms of the author’s correction of previous historians as well as his pursuit of new channels of investigation regarding these battles.

    • Bull, Stephen, and Mike Seed. Bloody Preston: The Battle of Preston 1648. Lancaster, PA: Carnegie, 1998.

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      A good account of the battle that presaged the end of the Second Civil War, with detailed coverage of Cromwell’s victory over the Royalist and Scots troops under the duke of Hamilton.

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    • Foard, Glenn. Naseby: The Decisive Campaign. Whitestable, UK: Pryor, 1995.

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      A highly detailed narrative account of the culminating campaign of the Civil War, Foard’s work argues for Naseby’s central place in English military history, with only the battle of Hastings rivaling it as the most important campaign conducted on English soil.

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    • Newman, Peter. The Battle of Marston Moor. Chichester, UK: Anthony Bird, 1981.

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      A more analytical account of Marston Moor than that provided by Young 1970, in many respects supplanting that work. See also Newman’s Marston Moor, 2 July 1644: The Sources and the Site (York: Borthwick Institute of Historical Research, 1978).

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    • Newman, P. R., and Paul R. Roberts. Marston Moor: The Battle of the Five Armies. Pickering, UK: Blackthorne, 2003.

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      A well-illustrated and mapped account of Marston Moor, based in part on a painstaking archaeological and metal-detector survey of the battlefield, with extensive discussion of the battle itself as well as the context and the aftermath.

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    • Wanklyn, Malcolm. Decisive Battles of the English Civil War: Myth and Reality. Barnsley, UK: Pen and Sword, 2006.

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      A very good recent analysis of the important battles of the war, especially as it reconsiders and at times critiques previous battlefield narratives. Also significant is Wanklyn’s innovative incorporation of landscape as well as context and sources in assessing these campaigns.

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    • Young, Peter. Marston Moor 1644: The Campaign and the Battle. Kineton, UK: Roundway, 1970.

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      A straightforward and scrupulous account of the campaign by a brigadier general and historian, focusing on the Royalist display of courage but also giving credit to the Parliamentary side. Provides a detailed exposition of tactics, organization, equipment, and the general order of battle.

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    • Young, Peter. Naseby 1645: The Campaign and the Battle. London: Century, 1985.

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      An uneven (and unillustrated) volume, biased toward the Royalist side, but worthy for its inclusion of primary sources relating to Naseby.

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    Cromwell in Ireland and Scotland

    Cromwell’s conduct in Scotland and Ireland and his sanctioning of Irish atrocities continue to receive lively interpretation, particularly in recent decades. Most controversially, Reilly 2000 has called for a reassessment of Cromwell’s wholly negative legacy in Ireland, though Ó Siochrú 2008 has begun to qualify these justifications of Cromwell’s actions in the massacres that took place in Drogheda and Wexford. Ó Siochrú 2008, Little 2009, and Wheeler 1999 also provide the longer picture of English policy in Ireland, preceding the invasion, while Barnard 2000 discusses the results of Cromwellian policy after the invasion. Spurlock 2007 is a very good recent account of the invasion of Scotland, and Dow 1979 conducts an extensive analysis of English administration of Scotland after 1651. Ohlmeyer 1998 should also be consulted for its excellent treatment of the wars across the three kingdoms, utilizing recent approaches to the “three kingdoms” aspect of the midcentury conflict.

    • Barnard, T. C. Cromwellian Ireland: English Government and Reform in Ireland, 1649–1660. Oxford: Clarendon, 2000.

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      First published in 1975, this classic work draws on a range of surviving sources to examine Cromwellian policy in Ireland during the interregnum. Though not a “complete study” in conveying all aspects of that policy and its manifestation on the ground, the book nevertheless describes the somewhat inconclusive results as well as divisions among Protestant groups and individual actors that existed during the 1650s.

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    • Dow, F. D. Cromwellian Scotland 1651–1660. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1979.

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      An older yet still useful and detailed administrative history recounting English rule in Scotland from 1651 through 1660. After examining the conquest itself, Dow emphasizes the establishment of English rule over affairs of justice and taxation, viewing it in a largely positive light; the work, however, tends toward Anglocentrism and overlooks the important role of economics as well as Scottish society and identity.

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    • Little, Patrick. “Cromwell and Ireland before 1649.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 116–141. New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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      Where most historians tend to treat Cromwell and Ireland from the 1649 conquest onward, Little examines Cromwell’s relationship with Ireland in the previous years, and particularly in the wake of the Irish rebellion of 1641. Though driven by a sense of providence, Cromwell, as Little demonstrates, was also motivated by substantial (and personal) financial and political considerations.

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    • Ohlmeyer, Jane, and John Kenyon, eds. The Civil Wars: A Military History of Scotland, Ireland, and England, 1638–1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998.

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      This collection of essays is an indispensable survey of the wars of the three kingdoms, tracing the conflicts from the 1640s on, with special emphasis placed on the formidable and subduing armies of Cromwell. Special attention should be paid to Edward Furgol’s important essay on Scotland, and Ohlmeyer’s on Ireland.

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    • Ó Siochrú, Micheál. God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland. London: Faber, 2008.

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      A detailed and well-researched recent examination of Cromwell that emphasizes the military conquest of Ireland, based in large part on the Irish Catholic rebellion of 1641 and the violence committed against Protestants. Though Ó Siochrú, taking Cromwell at his own words, describes him as “ill at ease with his conscience,” Cromwell was nevertheless responsible for the increasing savagery that had taken place under his watch.

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    • Reilly, Tom. Cromwell, an Honourable Enemy. London: Phoenix, 2000.

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      A controversial revisionist work that refutes assertions by historians that Cromwell committed “indiscriminate slaughter” in his Irish campaigns, arguing further that Cromwell cannot be held responsible for those English troops that he could not control in Drogheda and Wexford, nor can he not be said to have breached codes of conduct in war.

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    • Spurlock, R. Scott. Cromwell and Scotland: Conquest and Religion, 1650–1660. Edinburgh: John Donald, 2007.

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      Though Spurlock provides a skillful recounting of the Cromwellian conquest of Scotland, equally effective is his nuanced treatment of religious policies that attempted to foster unity among the sectaries, Independents, and Presbyterians up north, with often successful results.

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    • Wheeler, James Scott. Cromwell in Ireland. New York: St Martin’s, 1999.

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      Though this brisk and full-length military history ostensibly examines Cromwell’s campaigns, Wheeler actually seeks to place the events within the context of a longer twelve-year war that began with the uprising of 1641, continued with the conflict between the Catholic Confederation of Kilkenny and the English regimes, and ended in 1653, with Henry Ireton and Edmund Ludlow “finishing” the work of Cromwell, three years after he himself had departed.

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    The Commonwealth and Protectorate

    Scholarship on the Protectorate has flourished in recent years after lying relatively fallow in the wake of the Civil War revisionism of the 1970s and 1980s, which treated the 1650s as a period of retrenchment, “a monarchy in all but name.” New conclusions have been reached, for example, concerning the nature of the government during the Protectorate, the character of Cromwell’s (and his son Richard’s) rule, and the impact of the regime on Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. Coward 2002 is the best recent general study of the Protectorate, arguing that it represented an innovative and energetic period of political activity, rather than the conservatism previously believed. The essays in Little and Smith 2007 reinforce this more dynamic version of the Protectorate and should be consulted for a larger range of more recent scholarly approaches. Roots 1998 constitutes a more traditional overview, though its essays by leading historians remain essential for research on the subject. Finally, in an important study, Venning 1995 writes that Cromwellian foreign policy was largely defensive in nature, its actions based upon military power that resulted for the most part in military success.

    • Coward, Barry. The Cromwellian Protectorate. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2002.

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      Revising the accepted notion of the Protectorate as a conservative “retreat from revolution,” this leading scholar of the period examines a regime that attempted to settle divisions and tensions “rooted in the existence of conflicting aspirations for the future of the British Isles.”

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    • Little, Patrick, and David L. Smith. Parliaments and Politics during the Cromwellian Protectorate. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511496042Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An in-depth examination of the protectoral parliaments that argues in favor of Cromwell’s active involvement at the same time those parliaments struggled for self-definition against the reality of a strong executive authority. Essentially experimental exercises, parliaments in the 1650s, as the authors demonstrate, attempted to navigate questions of taxation or control of the militia within the confines of political instability and the looming figure of Cromwell himself.

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    • Roots, Ivan. “Into Another Mould”: Aspects of the Interregnum. 2d ed. Exeter, UK: University of Exeter Press, 1998.

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      Many aspects of the 1650s and of Cromwell’s role during that decade—union and disunion in the British Isles, Welsh politics and religion, local government reform, the Protectorate parliaments, and army politics—are explored in this significant collection of essays.

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    • Venning, Timothy. Cromwellian Foreign Policy. New York: St. Martin’s, 1995.

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      Emphasizing England’s relations primarily with France and Spain (though the Dutch Republic, the Baltic, and the Mediterranean world are also treated), Venning tends to alternate between asserting Cromwell’s centrality in formulating policy, and his deference to his Council of State or advisers in determining such a policy

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    Parliaments and Legislation

    Parliaments during the revolutionary period through Cromwell’s rule have benefited from a number of landmark studies in recent decades, even if they once tended to play a subservient role to studies of dispossessed or radical groups. Among the more notable contributions has been the reassessment of the protectoral parliaments in passing legislation or furthering a program of change. For the Commonwealth period (1649–1653), Worden 1977 provides an indispensible account of the Rump Parliament through the first part of Cromwell’s rule, as well as events leading to its dissolution in 1653, while Woolrych 1982 in his comprehensive study focuses on the transition between the Commonwealth and Protectorate, including the Barebones Parliament of 1653. Trevor-Roper 1956 is considered to be one of the most important histories of these parliaments and should be consulted by all students of the subject. Gaunt 1986, however, is a valuable contribution to redeeming the first Protectorate parliament from its poor reputation, while Roots 1974 does the same for the second, providing a nuanced portrait of its workings and successes. Roots 1972 is more critical, however, in regard to the legislation of the first Protectoral parliament, as he provides a detailed overview of the legally problematic legislation passed in the early years. In terms of government policy, Ashley 1972 argues that the larger economic vision that guided decisions during the Commonwealth and Protectorate, and that lay behind the enactment of such legislation as the Navigation Act, centered on self-sufficiency, not the notion “that a country must be self-supporting and ever ready for war.”

    • Ashley, Maurice. Financial and Commercial Policy under the Commonwealth and Protectorate. 2d ed. London: Frank Cass, 1972.

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      A highly detailed and at times technical study that treats commercial and financial programs, public finance in general, taxation policy, trade and public debt in the 1650s.

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    • Gaunt, Peter. “Law-Making in the First Protectorate Parliament.” In Politics and People in Revolutionary England: Essays in Honour of Ivan Roots. Edited by Colin Jones, Malyn Newitt and Stephen Roberts, 163–186. Oxford: Blackwell, 1986.

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      Though Cromwell called the first Protectoral parliament “a most poor hidebound Pedant Parliament,” Gaunt aims to illuminate its more constructive and positive aspects; though mired in divisive constitutional matters, the parliament, Gaunt writes, engaged in numerous other legislation, “meeting the needs of the people and the nation” in the process.

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    • Roots, Ivan. “Cromwell’s Ordinances: The Early Legislation of the Protectorate.” In The Interregnum: The Quest for Settlement, 1646–1660. Edited by G. E. Aylmer, 143–164. London and Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1972.

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      “The history of the Protectorate is in great part the history of its deficiencies,” Roots writes, “some of which can be traced in the early legislation made under its auspices.” This detailed essay examines the ordinances of the Protectorate—backed by “force of arms rather than force of law”—as they extended across matters of finance, security, religion, Scotland and Ireland.

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    • Roots, Ivan. “Law Making in the Second Protectorate Parliament.” In British Government and Administration: Essays Presented to S. B. Chrimes. Edited by H. Hearder and H. R. Loyn, 132–143. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 1974.

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      Argues against previous assumptions of an ineffectual body, claiming instead that the second Protectoral parliament did bring about some legislative achievements, and was in fact very productive, particularly in comparison to the one that preceded it.

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    • Trevor-Roper, H. R. “Oliver Cromwell and His Parliaments.” In Essays Presented to Sir Lewis Namier. Edited by Richard Pares, Alan Taylor, and John Percivale, 1–48. London: Macmillan, 1956.

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      Seminal article examines Cromwell’s parliamentary career, as well as his unsuccessful parliaments, beginning with the Long Parliament, which he purged, and his two Protectorate parliaments, also purged (and dissolved). Though attached to the parliamentary ideal, Cromwell in practice, according to Trevor-Roper, never truly “studied the necessary rules of the game,” thus facing parliaments that he “failed either to pack, to control, or to understand.”

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    • Woolrych, Austin Herbert. Commonwealth to Protectorate. Oxford: Clarendon, 1982.

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      An important work that traces England’s transition from being a republic to a mixed government, with particular emphasis placed on the Barebones Parliament and the crisis of 1653, and of the larger tensions between “radical millenarian Puritanism” and “moderate constitutionalism.”

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    • Worden, Blair. The Rump Parliament, 1648–53. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1977.

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      This work stands as the definitive account of the legislature, narrating the politics of a body whose sovereignty was always, in the end, dependent upon the grace of the army. Neither a revolutionary nor truly reforming body, the Rump was dominated by moderates seeking to preserve the social order. Particularly good on Cromwell’s role in its dissolution in 1653.

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    Governance

    Political culture under Cromwell was as much about relationships and patronage as it was about institutions such as Parliament; while the subject has tended to be neglected, recent studies have begun to address the workings of Cromwellian government on a more personal or local level, especially as they could function independently from the Protector. Durston 2001 examines the role of the major generals in enforcing policy across the realm, though their efforts ultimately failed, while Gaunt 1989 explores the importance of the council in shaping decisions that often were separate from Cromwell’s own goals. Sherwood 1997 is important not only for his thesis regarding Cromwell’s “royalism” but also for his examinations of the “court” over which he presided.

    • Durston, Christopher. Cromwell’s Major Generals: Godly Government during the English Revolution. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2001.

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      The somewhat neglected study of Cromwell’s major generals receives the first extensive, book-length treatment by Durston, who confirms previous assumptions about them as an important yet unpopular force during the 1650s. Expected to enforce security as well as godliness, they ultimately failed in the task, with a ruthless Cromwell himself colluding in their downfall by displaying no support for them, even though they had faithfully served his ostensible aims.

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    • Gaunt, Peter. “‘The Single Person’s Confidants and Dependants’? Oliver Cromwell and His Protectoral Councillors.” Historical Journal 32 (1989): 537–560.

      DOI: 10.1017/S0018246X00012413Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Seeks to redress the then-understudied subject of the Council and its role in protectoral politics. Not the “impotent cipher” implied by previous historians, the Council in Gaunt’s extensive depiction emerges as a valid and independent force working in tandem with Cromwell, even if he still retained an overpowering presence over it.

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    • Sherwood, Roy. Oliver Cromwell: King in All but Name, 1653–1658. Stroud, UK: Sutton, 1997.

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      Focusing on his Protectorate years, Sherwood argues that Cromwell embraced quasi-royalist trappings, as evidenced by the ceremony and symbols that pervaded his two installations, his reception of ambassadors, and the marriages of his daughters (as well as his funeral). Sherwood further claims, not altogether convincingly, that Cromwell was on the point of accepting the crown, despite his words to the contrary.

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    Cromwell and the Radicals

    Hill 1972 was the most noteworthy work that ushered in a reinvigorated study of radical groups in the middle decades of the 20th century, particularly as they appealed to Marxist perspectives. Recently, however, Burgess 2007 has called attention to the problems that inhere in the word “radicalism,” deployed as it has been by historians toward a century that did not know the term. McDowell 2003 also provides a very good recent interrogation of the many aspects (and problematic meanings) of radicalism from within literary culture. The field of radicals and radicalism in the 1640s and 1650s in general constitutes a huge historiography in its own right, but among the more noteworthy contributions are the classic study of the Fifth Monarchy Men by Capp 1972; the volume edited by Aylmer 1975, which centers on valuable primary sources as well as commentary; and Baker 2008, which provides a more current account of the Levellers and Cromwell’s sympathetic relationship to them, at least in the beginning. Students seeking a useful overview might look to Dow 1985, while the important role of women in midcentury radicalism is best represented by the landmark study of Mack 1992, which examines visionary women and their spiritual and political challenges to authority at midcentury.

    • Aylmer, G. E, ed. The Levellers in the English Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1975.

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      A useful introductory essay and collection of primary source documents by Levellers on the subject of Parliament and the army, political realities of the times, and Cromwell himself.

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    • Baker, Philip. “‘A Despicable Contemptible Generation of Men’? Cromwell and the Levellers.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 90–115. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

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      The most up-to-date treatment of Cromwell’s relationship with the Levellers in the 1640s, arguing for his continued and even sympathetic alliance with them up until their program threatened army unity in 1649.

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    • Burgess, Glenn. “Radicalism in the English Revolution.” In English Radicalism, 1550–1850. Edited by Glenn Burgess and Matthew Festenstein, 62–86. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511495762.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An excellent survey of where the field of 17th-century English radicalism currently stands, as well as a trenchant analysis of the problems in deploying the term “radicalism,” the origins and explanations for radical outbursts, and an insightful rereading of the Levellers.

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    • Capp, Bernard. The Fifth Monarchy Men. London: Faber, 1972.

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      The best work on the radical group committed to millenarian and apocalyptic designs, Capp’s work also touches on its relationship with Cromwell during the key years of the Protectorate.

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    • Dow, F. D. Radicalism in the English Revolution, 1640–1660. Oxford: Blackwell, 1985.

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      A concise and useful overview of radical ideas and popular religion in midcentury, and—tangentially—Cromwell’s relationship with them.

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    • Hill, Christopher. The World Turned Upside Down: Radical Ideas during the English Revolution, 1649–1660. New York: Viking, 1972.

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      Still the classic text on radical political groups and religious sects during the 1650s, Hill’s volume explains the political, social, and economic causes for the flourishing of radical ideas during Cromwell’s reign, and their rejection of Cromwell and the army by 1654.

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    • Mack, Phyllis. Visionary Women: Ecstatic Prophecy in Seventeenth-Century England. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992.

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      Examining over 240 prophecy-speaking women in the 17th century, Mack argues for the centrality of their spiritual (as opposed to their psychological or “hysterical”) motivations and relates them to their larger cultural and social environment. Gender fluidity as well as the body are examined, with emphasis on Quaker women and their roles as mothers, in addition to their movement’s utilization of feminine imagery.

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    • McDowell, Nicholas, ed. The English Radical Imagination: Culture, Religion, and Revolution, 1630–1660. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

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      An exploration of the primarily literary dimensions of radical thought, this book ranges from the Ranters to the Quakers and Levellers, raising questions concerning the relationship between elite and popular manifestations of radicalism, or the “orthodox intellectual and literary culture of early modern England and the development and expression of heterodox belief in the mid-seventeenth century.”

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    Cromwell and Religion

    Cromwell’s religion (including his position regarding other religions) received relatively little attention until the 1980s and the pioneering work of Blair Worden (Worden 1984, Worden 1985). As Davis 1990 observes, part of the neglect was due to the apparently self-explanatory power of religion evident in Cromwell’s own writings, taken at face value by historians (or refuted by other historians who insisted on his disingenuous Machiavellianism). Cromwell, however, issued no formalized statements of a dogmatic belief, or even an overt description of his conversion, and his relationship with other groups and sects is somewhat ambiguous, if “tolerant.” Despite the elusive nature of his private beliefs, Cromwell in his “public spirituality” was nevertheless devoted to the idea, in Davis’s words, of a “God presiding over the national destiny and pursuing it through various, if chosen, agents.” Fletcher 1990 and Hirst 1991 also assert the importance of religion to Cromwell, as well as his attempt to translate it into a larger godly program for the nation—an attempt that ultimately failed. Fletcher, however, makes the claim that Cromwell’s godly policies did lead, if unwittingly, to a kind of limited religious pluralism—a point that is reinforced by Worden 1984. Loomie 2004 qualifies this claim somewhat, at least in regard to Cromwell’s treatment of Catholic priests, while Samuel 2004 describes the admission of the Jews back to England as originating not with Cromwell but with the Jews themselves, as well as with his secretary John Thurloe. For a concise overview of religious policies as a whole, see MacGregor and Reay 1984.

    • Davis, J. C. “Cromwell’s Religion.” In Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Edited by John Morrill, 181–208. London and New York: Longman, 1990.

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      A comprehensive and in-depth overview of Cromwell’s providentialist religion, and his stance toward other sects and beliefs, through the prism of his experience in war and government, from 1642 to his death in 1658.

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    • Fletcher, Anthony. “Oliver Cromwell and the Godly Nation.” In Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution. Edited by John Morrill, 209–233. London and New York: Longman, 1990.

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      An analysis of Cromwell’s attempt to enact a program of spiritual and moral regeneration, but not a centralized ecclesiastical structure, among the godly nation in the 1650s. Though the results were mixed, Cromwell’s belief in liberty of conscience “paved the way for the religious plurality and the denominationalism of the modern state.”

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    • Hirst, Derek. “The Failure of Godly Rule in the English Republic.” Past and Present 132 (1991): 33–66.

      DOI: 10.1093/past/132.1.33Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      Hirst undertakes a deep exploration of the decade’s religious life, evangelical Puritanism, and the hopes for a national reformation, first born in 1641. Difficulties in matters of enforcement and a reluctance to prosecute moral offenders were some of the reasons, Hirst claims, that lay behind the ultimate failure of the godly to remake their world.

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    • Loomie, A. J. “Oliver Cromwell’s Policy toward the English Catholics: The Appraisal by Diplomats, 1654–1658.” Catholic Historical Review 90.1 (2004): 29–44.

      DOI: 10.1353/cat.2004.0023Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      An enlightening study of the reactions by Catholic foreign diplomats stationed in London in the 1650s, during a time when rumors of a renewed Catholic persecution were spreading across the Continent. Whether out of political expediency or not, Cromwell—contrary to past historians’ assumptions—did not treat Catholics altogether benignly or tolerantly, set as he was to “remove Catholic clergy from England.”

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    • MacGregor, J. F., and Barry Reay, eds. Radical Religion in the English Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984.

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      A comprehensive introduction to the subject, this collection of essays explores the radical millenarian ideas and groups that flourished in the wake of the loosening of censorship laws and the collapse of ecclesiastical authority beginning in the 1640s.

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    • Samuel, Edgar. “Oliver Cromwell and the Re-admission of the Jews to England in 1656.” In At the End of the Earth: Essays on the History of the Jews in England and Portugal. Edited by Edgar Samuel, 179–189. London: Jewish Historical Society of England, 2004.

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      Samuel explores the religious and economic motivations that brought about the readmission of the Jews to England in 1656. Samuel describes Cromwell as proceeding with caution, the initiative coming from the Jews as well as secretary of state John Thurloe, who brought the readmittance policy “to fruition.”

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    • Worden, Blair. “Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate.” In Persecution and Toleration. Edited by W. J. Sheils, 199–233. Oxford: Blackwell, 1984.

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      Distinguishing toleration from “liberty of conscience,” with the latter locating the truth in the spirit as opposed to human institutions, Worden describes Cromwell as a ruler who “neither wanted toleration nor provided it,” but still encouraged men around him, including Bulstrode Whitelock and Mathew Hale, to pursue, if in a limited way, a “wider liberty of belief.”

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    • Worden, Blair. “Providence and Politics in Cromwellian England.” Past and Present 109 (1985): 55–99.

      DOI: 10.1093/past/109.1.55Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      A brilliant and essential analysis of the central role that the doctrine of providence played in Puritan politics, especially in the 1650s. Especially insightful on the language of providentialism, and the manner in which politicians deployed providentialist argumentation.

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    Last Years and Death

    Investigations into the last years of Cromwell focus on the nature of his rule as well as his refusal of kingship. Firth 1909 is a still useful and very comprehensive treatment of the last two years, with Woolrych 2003, in a significant essay, providing a convincing argument against the claim that those years constituted any kind of dictatorship. Worden 1985 provides an eloquent analysis of Cromwell’s refusal of the crown, arguing that the role of providence and the state of his own salvation came into play regarding his decision. Little 2009, on the other hand, claims that Cromwell was very much tempted by the crown, though he agrees with Worden that matters of conscience prevented him from laying claim to such a title. Finally, Woolrych 1957 examines the years of Richard Cromwell’s rule and the fall of the Protectorate, with the period dominated by the army’s self-interest as well as nostalgia for the early years of the revolution.

    • Firth, C. H. The Last Years of the Protectorate, 1656–1658. London: Longmans, Green, 1909.

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      A continuation of S. R. Gardiner’s four-volume History of the Commonwealth and Protectorate (1903), which he left unfinished at his death, and a magisterial account of the last years to 1658.

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    • Little, Patrick. “John Thurloe and the Offer of the Crown to Oliver Cromwell.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 216–240. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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      Argues that Cromwell did seek or was at least tempted to accept the crown in 1657, after years of quasi-regal rule, though “warnings from other godly people”—as well as his own conscience—prevented him from doing so.

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    • Woolrych, Austin. “The Good Old Cause and the Fall of the Protectorate.” Cambridge Historical Journal 13 (1957): 133–161.

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      A masterful recounting of the army’s revolt against Richard Cromwell’s rule, and its sense of “a good old cause”—or the cause embodied in the early years of the revolution—betrayed. The last years, Woolrych writes, gave rise to myth-making, just as the overthrow of the government valued “was a work of pure destruction, whose consequences they wantonly disregarded.”

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    • Woolrych, Austin. “The Cromwellian Protectorate: A Military Dictatorship?” In Cromwell and the Interregnum: The Essential Readings. Edited by David Smith, 61–90. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003.

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      Woolrych answers his question in the negative, convincingly arguing that Cromwell himself refused the opportunity of seizing dictatorial powers in 1653, and remained committed to a policy of persuasion over forcible, ideologically conforming rule. The major generals themselves remained within the scope of the law, and their lasting impact was minimal.

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    • Worden, Blair. “Oliver Cromwell and the Sin of Achan.” In History, Society, and the Churches: Essays in Honour of Owen Chadwick. Edited by Derek Beales and Geoffrey Best, 125–145. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985.

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      Worden examines the centrality of providence in Cromwell’s motivations as well as his self-justifications, focusing on its invocation through key episodes in his career. Cromwell’s refusal of kingship, Worden writes, was based upon concerns for his own salvation as well his conviction that “To take the Crown without the light of God’s approval might, in the manner of Achan’s iniquity, ‘prove even a curse to … these three nations.’”

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    Cromwell, Culture and Literature

    Though the works in this section do not focus on Cromwell directly—with the exception of Worden 2007, Norbrook 1999, and others who examine Andrew Marvell’s Cromwell-inspired “An Horatian Ode upon Cromwell’s Return from Ireland”—they are nevertheless significant in touching on the relationship between literature and the larger Cromwellian world. Some of the best work in recent years, including historical analysis, has come from literary scholars, while historians such Worden have extended their sphere to include literature, with illuminating results. Visual material and artifacts relating to Cromwell are effectively examined by Knoppers 2000 and Cooper 1999, while Smith 1997 and Norbrook 1999 are among the most important literary studies of the period. Holberton 2008 emphasizes cultural institutions during the Protectorate, and Hoxby 2002 provides an innovative assessment of the role of economic thought in relation to those institutions, and to literary culture as a whole.

    • Cooper, John. Oliver the First: Contemporary Images of Oliver Cromwell. London: National Portrait Gallery, 1999.

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      An update of David Piper’s “Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell” (1958), this catalogue marked the 400th anniversary of Cromwell’s birth, exploring contemporary renderings of the protector through painted portraits, coins, medals, seals, death masks, and engravings.

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    • Holberton, Edward. Poetry and the Cromwellian Protectorate: Culture, Politics, and Institutions. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

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      In this study of the literary culture of the 1650s, Holberton writes that “Protectorate poetry [was] not as preoccupied with the charisma of Cromwell as some critics have argued.” Utilizing discrete examples placed within their historical moments, Holberton instead emphasizes larger cultural institutions that generated pageants or poetry that did not so neatly divide into binary oppositions of “royalist” and “republican.”

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    • Hoxby, Blair. Mammon’s Music: Literature and Economics in the Age of Milton. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002.

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      An exploration of the relationship between literature and economic thought, emphasizing Milton’s role as an “economic thinker” deeply engaged in discourses of trade. Though the 1640s and the Restoration period are given prominent treatment, the economic transformations during the years under Cromwell are also treated.

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    • Knoppers, Laura Lunger. Constructing Cromwell: Ceremony, Portrait, and Print, 1645–51. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2000.

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      An incisive exploration of contemporary print, visual, and material culture and ceremony as they fashioned an image of Cromwell for the age. The “construction” of Cromwell, Knoppers writes, stood at the nexus of culture and politics, resulting in a “shifting, fraught, and highly contested” portrait of the man.

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    • Norbrook, David. Writing the English Republic: Poet, Rhetoric, and Politics, 1627–1660. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1999.

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      The definitive treatment of the republican imagination and republican poetics in 17th-century England, with a penetrating analysis of the “Horatian Ode.” Cromwell also emerges in the figure of Milton’s Satan, who utilizes republican language only to mask monarchical ambition.

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    • Smith, Nigel. Literature and Revolution in England, 1640–1660. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997.

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      An important work that effectively surveys a range of discourses between 1640 and 1660, focusing on the impact that revolution had on traditional modes and genres of writing. Literary portrayals of Cromwell are presented throughout.

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    • Worden, Blair. Literature and Politics in Cromwellian England. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

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      A literary biography that centers on Milton, Andrew Marvell, and (most originally) Marchamont Nedham, this work seeks to connect those writers not only to each other but to their contemporary context of literature and politics. In addition to new and edifying contributions concerning Milton’s Commonwealth prose, the volume contains Worden’s important interpretation, previously in article form, of Marvell’s “Horatian Ode.”

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    Reputation and Memorializations

    Contemporary and historical perceptions of Cromwell have constituted their own subfield, so variable and rich is his interpretive fate. The folkloric legacy has been explored by Smith 1968 in an important article, and Cromwell in visual and material culture has, as mentioned in Cromwell, Culture, and Literature, been examined. Barnard 1993 also provides an excellent overview of Cromwell’s legacy in Ireland and addresses the question of why the focus remained on “the butcher of Drogheda and Wexford,” despite the prevalence of other figures who could well have joined him in the villainous pantheon. Davis 2001, like Barnard, focuses on the historiography of Cromwell in a concise and useful study, with Worden 2001 exploring similar material, but across a wider range of Roundhead figures. Morrill 1990 and Sadler 2009 also trace Cromwell’s reputation, but among his contemporaries and within the context of the times, while Howell 1993 examines similar perceptions but also includes popular conceptions of the man. Despite the growing studies of Cromwell’s posthumous life, the flourishing discipline of memory studies promises to extend this research as it applies to Cromwell, with interesting results sure to come.

    • Barnard, Toby. “Irish Images of Cromwell.” In Images of Oliver Cromwell: Essays for and by Roger Howell, Jr. Edited by R. C. Richardson, 180–206. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1993.

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      Examining primarily textual and historiographical material, Barnard argues that Cromwell’s image in Ireland was largely a construct of the 19th century, most notably through the work of W. E. H. Lecky.

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    • Davis, James Colin. Oliver Cromwell. London: Arnold, 2001.

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      Part of the “Reputations” series, this work presents an excellent overview of the historiography and changing reputation of the man through the prism of his religion, politics, military capabilities, campaigns in Ireland and Scotland, and statesmanship.

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    • Howell, Roger. “Images of Oliver Cromwell.” In Images of Oliver Cromwell: Essays by and for Roger Howell, Jr. Edited by R. C. Richardson, ed., 20–32. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 1993.

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      One of the best overviews of Cromwell’s posthumous reputation across time, not only in formal historical scholarship but across changing popular consciousness. In seeking to understand the meanings behind these images of the man, Howell ultimately describes this most private of public figures as grappling with many of the political issues—liberty, equality, reform within constitutional bounds—that remain alive today.

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    • Morrill, John. “Cromwell and His Contemporaries.” In Cromwell and the English Revolution. Edited by John Morrill, 259–281. London: Longman, 1990.

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      A characteristically cogent analysis of Cromwell’s variegated reputation among Levellers and other contemporaries.

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    • Sadler, S. L. “‘Lord of the Fens’: Oliver Cromwell’s Reputation and the First Civil War.” In Oliver Cromwell: New Perspectives. Edited by Patrick Little, 64–89. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Macmillan, 2009.

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      Provides a more nuanced picture of Cromwell’s growing reputation in the wake of his first successful forays as a military figure in 1642. Examining the “rhetoric and reality,” Sadler skillfully navigates through the many “conflicting reputations” of Cromwell, particularly those brought forward at the time by anonymous opponents.

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    • Smith, Alan. “The Image of Cromwell in Folklore and Tradition.” Folklore 79 (1968): 17–39.

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      A seminal treatment of Cromwell’s folkloric legacy, with a survey of his image as an escapee of death, a destroyer, or an ogre. Especially interesting are the brief treatments of Cromwellian folklore in both an Irish and a local (West Country) context.

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    • Worden, Blair. Roundhead Reputations: The English Civil War and the Passions of Posterity. London: Allen Lane, 2001.

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      Five chapters are devoted to Cromwell in this excellent study of the reputations of parliamentarian leaders through the centuries, as Worden traces the interpretive fate of these men in the hands of late 17th century radical Whigs, Victorians, and “Leveller”-leftists.

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    LAST MODIFIED: 05/10/2010

    DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780195399301-0045

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