In This Article Oliver Cromwell

  • Introduction
  • Journals
  • Calendars of State Papers and State Journals
  • Primary Sources, 1640s and 1650s
  • Pamphlets, Newspapers, and Periodicals
  • Letters, Speeches, and Writings
  • Biographies
  • The New Model Army as a Military Instrument
  • Contemporaries
  • Opponents
  • The First Civil War (1642–1646)
  • The Second and Third Civil Wars and the Irish Campaign (1648–1651)
  • Cromwell as Military Commander
  • Cromwell and Religion
  • The Republic and Protectorate

Military History Oliver Cromwell
by
Stanley Carpenter
  • LAST REVIEWED: 09 August 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 29 November 2017
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791279-0046

Introduction

Oliver Cromwell was born on 25 April 1599 and died on 3 September 1658. As a member of Parliament representing Huntington from 1628–1629 and Cambridge from 1640–1642, Cromwell rose from relatively modest political obscurity to command the New Model Army (NMA) and serve as Lord Protector (de facto monarch) in the Interregnum of 1649–1660. From a middling gentry family, Cromwell gained attention commanding a troop of cavalry in the parliamentary Eastern Association Army despite little prior military experience. The First English Civil War (1642–1646) ended with Cromwell as a lieutenant-general of horse in the NMA, which had been formed in 1645 with the amalgamation of Parliament’s three main armies. He commanded the parliamentary forces that crushed the invading pro-Royalist Scottish Engager army at the Battle of Preston (1648), effectively ending the Second Civil War. In 1649–1650, he commanded the expedition to Ireland to confront an alliance of the Irish Confederate Catholics and English Royalists. The Irish campaign resulted in the ultimate subjugation of Ireland to English rule, but the brutal siege and massacres at Drogheda and Wexford created tremendous controversy and long-lasting animosity. With the final outbreak of civil war in 1650 as the Scottish Covenanter Army sided with the Royalists, Cromwell commanded the invading force that finally defeated the Scots and Royalists at Worcester in September 1653. Politically, Cromwell dominated British politics, first as a leading figure in the “Rump” Parliament of 1649–1653, then as a member of the English Commonwealth Council of State, and finally as Lord Protector. Angered at the failure of Parliament to address elections and the religious settlement, Cromwell led the coup d’état that dissolved the “Rump” in April 1653. In December 1653, Major-General John Lambert produced the Instrument of Government, the constitution that established the Protectorate. Cromwell assumed the chief executive position as Lord Protector, but later refused the title of king. In essence, rule by the NMA evolved as the Protectorate leaders attempted to impose stricter political and religious control. But, after Cromwell’s death by natural causes in September 1658, his successor and son, Richard Cromwell, could not hold together the various factions; by early 1660, the monarchy returned with the Restoration under King Charles II. Though a deeply religious man, who believed that God guided his actions (or “Providentialism,” whereby God actively directs worldly events and activities through selected persons), Cromwell cannot be clearly identified with any one sect or branch of Protestantism. He seems to have been mainly associated with Puritanism, and he advocated the need for the country’s “godly reformation.” Though vilified after the Restoration, his aggressive foreign, mercantile trade, and colonial policies established the dynamics for the rise of the British Empire. In the 19th century, the “Whiggish” historians championed Cromwell and his role in the inevitable evolution from feudal monarchy to the modern constitutional democracy. Thus, while excoriated after the Restoration as an evil military dictator and religious fanatic, Cromwell has emerged as a positive figure in modern times.

Journals

A lively debate continues through the media of academic journals as to the impact of Cromwell on the British Civil Wars and English Revolution of the 17th century. Three journals in particular—the English Historical Review, the Journal of British Studies (JBS), and Albion—typically provide the most extensive commentary. However, many more broadly based historical journals occasionally also address issues relating to Cromwell or the period. The Historical Journal addresses not only British history but also topics in European and World history. History Today and Past and Present are more focused on a broader general audience and deal with various social, economic, and cultural issues, while the Journal of Military History and War and Society address military and strategic affairs, typically from a historical analysis viewpoint (though not focused on Britain or any one area per se).

  • Albion.

    E-mail Citation »

    Published quarterly by Appalachian State University from 1969 to 2005 as a journal of the North American Conference on British Studies (NACBS), Albion merged in 2005 with the other NACBS journal, the Journal of British Studies (JBS).

  • The English Historical Review (EHR).

    E-mail Citation »

    Published six times annually by Oxford Journals (Oxford University) since the late 19th century, the EHR is the oldest historical journal in the English language. Entries include scholarly articles, book and historiography reviews, and short essays. Ideal for academics and postgraduate and undergraduate research.

  • Historical Journal.

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    Published by Cambridge University Press, The Historical Journal addresses multiple aspects of British, European, and world history. The Historical Journal is traditionally a publishing venue for younger scholars seeking to establish themselves, as well as for established historians.

  • History Today.

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    Although essentially a popular history journal published since 1951, the monthly History Today does present useful articles crafted by noted historians and scholars. While aimed more at a general audience, the publication provides useful context to the military and political history of the Civil Wars and Cromwellian periods.

  • Journal of British Studies (JBS).

    E-mail Citation »

    In 2005, JBS merged with Albion, and it now continues under the same title. JBS concentrates on general British history and culture and presents articles, book reviews, and commentary. Especially strong in political, military, and constitutional history, many entries focus on the Cromwellian period. Published quarterly by the University of Chicago Press.

  • Journal of Military History (JMH).

    E-mail Citation »

    Published quarterly for the Society for Military History by the Virginia Military Institute, the JMH addresses all aspects of military history through both articles and book reviews. Although not focused on any particular aspect of military history, British and Cromwellian period articles appear frequently. JMH also provides an extensive review of new works and historiography.

  • Past and Present (P&P).

    E-mail Citation »

    Although more focused on social history, belying its Marxist roots at its foundation in 1952, there are nonetheless useful articles on the Cromwellian era, particularly in terms of social relations, reasons for choosing either the Royalist or Parliamentarian side, impact of the Civil Wars, English Republic and Protectorate periods.

  • War & Society (W&S).

    E-mail Citation »

    Published three times per year by Maney Publishing since the 1980s on behalf of the University of New South Wales, W&S addresses issues in military history and warfare in general from the perspective of the interplay between warfare and societies. Some aspects of tactical, operational, strategic, and doctrinal articles are also included.

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