Oliver Cromwell

Stanley Carpenter

in Military History

ISBN: 9780199791279
Published online February 2012 | | DOI:
Oliver Cromwell

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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.

Article.  10593 words. 

Subjects: Military History ; Pre-20th Century Warfare ; First World War ; Second World War ; Post-WW2 Military History

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