"Into Another Mould": Aspects of the Interregnum

By Ivan Roots | Go to book overview

4
Oliver Cromwell and his Protectorate
Parliaments: Co-operation, Conflict and
Control*

Peter Gaunt

It is now nearly forty years since the publication of Trevor-Roper’s seminal article on Oliver Cromwell and his parliaments. It portrayed Cromwell as an idealistic but incompetent parliamentarian, an industrious back-bencher, ill-equipped to deal with the legislature when elevated to senior military and political office. From the late 1640s until his death, Cromwell faced a succession of assemblies which he failed to understand, work with or manage, standing by bewildered and generally inactive as other ably-led cliques seized the initiative and promoted deliberately destructive and antagonistic policies. For Trevor-Roper, Cromwell’s relations with parliaments, particularly those of the Protectorate, comprised a series of abject failures and unconstitutional

*This article is in part based upon a paper presented, in slightly different versions,
to an early modern Britain conference held in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1985,
and to the seventeenth century seminar group at the Institute of Historical
Research in 1989; I am grateful to all who attended for their comments and
suggestions. An article springing from part of that paper, entitled ‘Law-Making
in the First Protectorate Parliament’ appeared in C. Jones, M. Newitt and S.
Roberts (eds), Politics and People in Revolutionary England (Oxford, 1986).
Inevitably, some points made and material used in that article reappear here,
though I have tried to keep such repetition to a minimum.

-70-

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