Oliver Cromwell Essay, Research Paper
Oliver Cromwell, a Puritan fundamentalist and undefeated commander of the “Ironsides”, forever changed the history of England with, perhaps, what he did not do, rather than what he did do after the success of the insurrection he led against Charles. Though rather unsuccessful as a politician, Cromwell, single-handedly redefining the art of war and military strategy, proved to be one of the greatest military geniuses of all time. Despite the professionally trained forces that often outnumbered him three to one in battle, he struck fear in his opposition and maintained an untarnished record in battle that proved the degree of his skill. Historians traditionally fail to classify his genius because of a desire to try to accredit him with political gains and historical precedence he did not earn. Unfortunately, in these attempts to elevate his stature from “godly” to “God,” the positive affects on society he did attribute go seemingly untold and underscored. The most highly contested argument debated today revolves around the Oliver Cromwell’s advancement of political freedom in 17th-Century England. Peter Gaunt, in his book Oliver Cromwell, and John Morrill, in the “Introduction” of the book Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution, take sides and present their cases as to whether or not Cromwell advanced political freedom. Though, John Morrill asserts the most historically accurate answer, he is still equally as guilty of misrepresenting opinions as facts and offers great leaps in logic as does Peter Gaunt.
Gaunt’s logic develops on the assumption that never before had the world seen democracy and that people in general had no freedom before the rule of the “Lord Protectorate.” He also suggests that the English all enjoyed the same rights as citizens of England and the oppression of the reign of Charles I had ceased. However, none of these assertions was true. In fact, historically because of things did not change after the defeat of Charles I, the legacy Cromwell envisioned leaving the country never even formulated because of the corruption of others. Gaunt’s work, a rather weak source to base such lofty claims as Cromwell’s advance of the political freedom, lacked clear presentation and focused more on the appearance of Cromwell than his influence. At most, the only legitimate claim that can be made is that Cromwell served as a hero to the people and a man of God and he fought for a fair and just society in accordance to the “word of God.” Professor Blair Worden of the University of Sussex offers some clarification:
For him the earlier Cromwell, the warrior-hero and agent of divine destruction, had transcended politics. As protector, charged not with destruction but with reconstruction, Oliver was obliged, as a merely mortal ruler would have been, to haggle with parliament… Cromwell merely as the most heroic representative of that heroic movement, which itself was the representative — because it represented the best — of England.
Thus, it is clear that Cromwell commanded the respect of the people. Unfortunately, he also faced a political system unwilling to change.
Essentially, John Morrill presents arguments that are just as unfounded; however, his overall conclusion provides a foundation for true insight into the situation. John Morrill makes preconceived judgments on the character of Oliver Cromwell. Throughout his introduction to Cromwell, Morrill focuses on undermining every aspect of Cromwell, all in order to make a seemingly well-founded conclusion. Because very little first hand information remains on Cromwell, Morrill makes belligerent assumptions of historically weak evidence. Such a strategy proves to only undercut the authors credibility to educated readers. Granted that the Cromwell’s policies did not produce the results that he intended, his successes and influence on the government remain historically strategic in changing the ideology in the world, particularly in the “New World” where his ideals took shape in the forming governments.
Oliver Cromwell did not advance political freedom. Rather than break down the authoritarian rule of the elite, Cromwell relied on it for support and charity. Although he generally looked out for the good of the common person, Oliver could not, or would not, control the caustic behavior of those in control under his rule. He attempt to adjust the system by disestablishing the Rump and creating the Protectorate Parliament but this only furthered the atrocities as the new legislation was just as harsh and discomforting to the people. Cromwell avoided fixing the problem so he once again dissolved the Parliament. When analyzing the lasting effects of Oliver Cromwell, trying to attribute things of modern day importance undermines the legacy he left and the individual rights he imparted to those he led.
Morrill, John, ed. Oliver Cornwell and the English Revolution. NewYork: Longman, 1990.
Morrill, John. “Introduction.” In Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Controversial Issues in World
Civilizations, ed.Joseph R. Mitchell, 283-294.Guilford: McGraw-Hill, 1998.
Worden, Blair. Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Sussex. Speech given on
27 October 1999 at the British Academy. Accessed 17 October 2000; Available from