Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

Oliver Cromwell

Synopsis

In this concise and accessible biography, Martyn Bennett examines the life of Oliver Cromwell - one of the most controversial figures in world history. This study challenges long-held perceptions of Cromwell and the Commonwealth, arguing that they need to be placed at the core of early Modern British and Irish history.

Charting his early career, the origins of his political and religious thought, and the development of his notions of governance that influenced him as Lord Protector, Martyn Bennett contests the post-Restoration vilification of Cromwell to examine how his influence has shaped notions of citizenship, identity and governance and informed the relationship between religion and the state in Britain.

This radical interpretation will give students a clearer view of the motivations and achievements of a fascinating and pivotal figure in British history.

Excerpt

The novelist and biographer John Buchan, Lord Tweedsmuir, felt that Oliver had underplayed his origins. Cromwell once said ‘I was by birth a gentleman, living neither in any considerable height nor yet in obscurity’. Buchan suggested that he might ‘have put the claim higher’, because of his family’s prominence in the region. Many biographers and historians across the past three and a half centuries have been mesmerised by Oliver’s apparent rise from obscurity to prominence and national leadership. To some nineteenth century commentators, imbued with the virtues of Samuel Smiles’s ‘self-help’ mentality, Cromwell’s ‘self-made man’ image was irresistible. It still lingers in recent works, although over time historians have questioned it. Maurice Ashley stressed that the Cromwell family’s status meant that the implication of obscurity is hard to justify. Yet it has almost become a commonplace in many ways to see Cromwell appearing as it were from nowhere. Several factors have been ascribed in this rise, a combination of his natural talents with the cataclysmic movements of class struggle unleashed by the revolutionary times, or to the rise of the puritans, with which Cromwell has been long associated. The notion of obscurity is a complex phenomenon with at least two facets appropriate to Cromwell’s life. One facet is the aspect of being hidden or lost: this can be examined with regard to Cromwell’s early life and development. A few of the usual records, those confirming birth and baptism exist, but there are few details of Oliver’s childhood.

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