How Different Was The Cromwell Of The Protectorate From The Cromwell Of The Civil Wars?

2250 words - 9 pages

From the English Civil Wars to the end of Cromwell’s Protectorate in 1658, the character of Cromwell was influenced by a number of factors. It is through his early career, that the blend of intense Puritanism and a political demagoguery nature created the authoritative, bold and disciplined Cromwell that was present during the Protectorate years. It is understandable to see how the choices in his life and social events shaped his character into becoming the first and only proletariat to become Lord Protector over England. The Historian Morill limns that ‘the first forty of his fifty-eight years, Oliver Cromwell lived in obscurity’1 only demonstrates the tremendous change Cromwell underwent during his life. However some characteristics demonstrated by Cromwell during the Protectorate can be traced back to the Cromwell of the Civil Wars. His ruthlessness, radicalism and subversive nature are traits that continually emerge throughout the years.

Popular opinion condemns Cromwell as a radical, religiously fundamentalist tyrant. Notable historians such as David Hunn and Ms Maculay, have supported the hatred against Oliver Cromell in arguing that he represents a violent, unconstitutional opposition and tyrannical force after the collapse of the monarchy. The historian Worden disagrees as he states ‘Cromwell may have been a devious politician, but he was not a cold-blooded one.’2 Historian Roger Howell supplements Worden’s view when he argues that there was a new emerging interpretation of Cromwell in the late eighteenth century by stating ‘after 200 years of enduring infamy as a fanatical, ambitious hypocrite, Cromwell became a hero in the nineteenth century.’3 In the book “Images of Oliver Cromwell,” Roger Howell Jr, questions previous interpretations of Cromwell when he states ‘what, then, was Cromwell-Heath’s hypocritical tyrant, Clarendon’s brave, bad man, Carlyle’s hero, Gardiner’s Victorian liberal, Abbot’s prot-fascist, Paul’s anguished Christian, Hill’s paradoxical and ultimately disillusioned representative of his class?’4 Howell Jr. own work concludes that it is impossible to define Cromwell as any single previous definition as he carried a characteristic for each description.

The transformation that Cromwell underwent in his career can be explained in his differing policies during the Civil Wars and the years of the Protectorate. When the English Civil War erupted in 1642, Cromwell instantaneously became a significant player in the success of the battles. His natural talent of leadership and his gift of inspirational speeches provided him with the opportunity to perfect his directorship skills that he would demonstrate and employ in his later career as Lord Protector. The Historian Roger Howell identified Cromwell as ‘a leader associated with national vigour, pride and prosperity.’5 Although, there is a clear distinction growth between the inconsequential man present at the turn of the English Civil War to the domineering,...

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