Political Legacies | Legacies of British Slave-ownership
There has been a growing sense that the biographies based on his letters and speeches, of which there have been some outstanding examples in the last 20 years, have exhausted the possibilities and share too much common ground. In particular, there has appeared to be the establishment of a not exactly cosy consensus that Cromwell was a sincerely religious man, who, despite his failings and lapses Drogheda and Wexford conspicuous amongst them , did his best in difficult circumstances. On the other, his critics then and since have observed a man bent on tyranny, a hypocrite, and an ambitious manipulator of his own image as well as of others p.
It is, as we all know, a contested image. Of course, provided that we accept the notion of his hypocrisy, all this can be rejected as self-serving and little more than a smoke-screen.
The argument is that presented him with dynastic opportunities. Moves towards what was to become the Humble Petition and Advice reopened the question of succession via protectoral nomination even by heredity rather than by conciliar election. Little suggests that the combination of these developments enabled Cromwell senior to begin thinking in dynastic terms.
Legal reform, the reformation of manners, and collaborative parliaments all eluded him whether he willed them or not. Professor Blair Worden and myself are seen as contributing to an unbalanced perception of Cromwell by emphasizing the significance of providence in his thinking. Two essays follow which examine the relationship between Cromwell and the physical world.
In the first of these, John Goldsmith, Curator of the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, examines the survival or not of material possessions allegedly associated with Cromwell. It is a meticulous, if somewhat depressing, story of misidentification and wishful thinking, a tale full of the evidence of negligible evidence. For example, we are told that much of the Cromwell Bush Collection, central to that of the Huntingdon museum, cannot be directly linked back to Cromwell. We could not ask for a surer guide than Professor Gaunt, whose The Cromwellian Gazetteer provides the basis for much of what we know about where Cromwell was when.
Setting this against local and historiographical beliefs is a salutary, not to say bracing, exercise. From one perspective, Oliver seems to have been everywhere and blamable for everything.
Nationally, the systematic slighting of castles between and was the work of parliament not of Cromwell. Equally, the hard evidence linking him to acts of religious iconoclasm proves hard to find pp.
Faced with this bleak conclusion, he ends by asking whether the landscape, through which Cromwell had travelled so apparently tirelessly, had more impact on him than he did on it. By contrast, he eventually became a more positive point of reference for military reformers in the later 19th and early 20th centuries and for those who would reinvigorate society with military values, such as Baden Powell.
Equally, the 20th-century high point of his reputation, the Second World War, was also a period when Parliament, seen as a bastion of freedom against the totalitarian threat from the Axis powers, was riding high. In a fine essay, Laura Stewart suggests that the Cromwellian occupation of Scotland, partly because it involved no wholesale destruction and, more questionably, no fundamental change to Scots society, could be regarded as relatively benign.
Lord Fenmore's Wager
But, on balance, Stewart argues the impact of the occupation was slight. Despite various attempted reforms of Scottish life, it was the survival of Scottish legal and religious practice that helped to persuade a conquered people that they retained some of the attributes of sovereignty. Not only were English reforms rendered largely superfluous by those of the Covenanters earlier p. And, one might add, the already stretched resources of the English state.
Much the same could, in the end, be said about Ireland. Horrific as they were, in conception and implementation, English plans for post-conquest Ireland had to be accommodated to reality, including that of the limitations of even the Cromwellian regime.
ISBN 13: 9780451204028
Contrary to those critics who since Slingsby Bethel have argued that, in forging an alliance with France against Spain, Cromwell helped to tip the balance of power in Europe in a way which was to be disadvantageous to Britain until the 19th century, Dunthorne sees the policy as defensible because it ensured that the two powers, France and Spain, would not unite against him.
The vigour, courage, shrewdness and cunning of Cromwellian foreign policy, admired in the 18th century by Cartaret, were the hallmarks of his legacy in terms of European policy.
A similar pattern, though with variations, is observed by Karen Racine in her examination of the ways in which Cromwell could be used by both the Spanish authorities and by independence-seeking Spanish-American colonists in the struggles between them in the early 19th century. On the one hand, he could be portrayed as a harbinger of civil conflict, military tyranny and anarchy; on the other, as the champion of free speech, religious liberty and, more uneasily, of the virtues of republicanism over monarchy.
Racine also traces the fascinating appearance of Cromwell in Spanish-American novels, plays and dialogues of the period. Condition: New.
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