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Oliver Cromwell - Hero or Villain?

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    Hi, I'm doing an essay on Oliver Cromwell and I was interested - what do you guys think of Cromwell?

    Personally, I think he was really evil and cruel (a villain) because he killed so many people (in Ireland) and he was a hypocrite. - He banned dancing yet he danced at his daughter's wedding!

    Thanks
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    He closed down the pubs and banned Christmas! :eek:
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    The Ireland issue depends on how you look at it. One argument to defend his record in Ireland is that it was entirely within the laws of war at the time. If a garrison did not surrender, it pretty much meant that you were subject to being all killed. For the dancing, pubs and Christmas thing, that's likely to have been more down to the Parliament at the time. He didn't make it a goal of his to ban these sorts of things (And he only banned Christmas in the sense of it being a drunken party, he wanted it to be a day of reflection if I'm correct). Science and education, for example, flourished under Cromwell.
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    Thanks, some great points
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    I'm Irish, so there tends to be a pretty unanimous and extremely negative view of Cromwell.

    I'm slightly less extreme. It's a pity he was only posthumously executed though; he deserved a far more gruesome death than a urinary infection or whatever it was.
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    Cromwell the biggest hypocrite in history. Claimed to get rid of a corrupt despot and was then worse then him. Genocide in Ireland, religious fanatic and then dissolved Parliament because they were too difficult. seems like he had more in common with Charles I then he knew
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    As an Irishman.......villain
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    (Original post by Ace123)
    Cromwell the biggest hypocrite in history. Claimed to get rid of a corrupt despot and was then worse then him. Genocide in Ireland, religious fanatic and then dissolved Parliament because they were too difficult. seems like he had more in common with Charles I then he knew
    Indeed. One person, whose name I forget, commented that Cromwell's actions at dissolving Parliament were far worse a crime than Charles entering the Commons to arrest the 5 MPs. In fact, when Cromwell threw out Parliament (By force) it was actually illegal, but no one would argue with his decision for the simple fact that he had the backing of the army.

    In my opinion, Cromwell was more of a puppet of the army than anything else. He knew that power lay with their support, and he was one of those at the top of that chain and played his cards well.
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    History can't be reduced to a basic hero or villan dichotomy. Cromwell unquestioningly undertook evil and undefendable actions, but it was not in a vaccume and he was not the only one. He would have been unable to act had there not been atrocities committed against English Protestants in Ireland which creates popular support in England for his actions, he wouldn't have been able to ban christmas without the religious fundamentalism which developed during the period, influenced massively by the 30 years war in Europe.

    Basically, he might have been evil, but his actions were not as bad as what happened in Germany and could not have taken place without backing in England partially created as a response to horrible acts committed by Irishmen.

    I think by focusing excessively on Cromwell, we ignore both the events of the time and the agency of both those committing horrible actions and the previous crimes being responded to, and that maybe we should take a more objective approach to the whole thing, but then again I am English...
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    Puritanical (serial killing) bore
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    Villain, he's the reason this country has never had a 'true' revoloution like the French for example, hence why we are stuck with our ridiculous tradition of a Royal family.
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    He was a hypocrite. He overthrew an autocratic king and made himself an even worse Lord Protector - king in all but name. The Civil War started when the king tried to arrest five Members of Parliament who opposed him, but Cromwell himself purged most of that same parliament when more MP's did the same with him.

    His actions in war could perhaps be forgiven if they were done by any other man - for that time period they weren't overly excessive. But whatever his ultimate intentions, anyone who fights for an ideal and then betrays it for his own purposes deserves nothing more than our contempt.
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    A brutal man, but a man of his times, and Father of Parliamentary Democracy.
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    Quite a bit of applying modern values to events 350 years ago in some of the arguments here. On Ireland for example, I don't think it's proven that he was the evil madman he is characterised as - he plays a key role in Irish myth making, a sort of ultimate British bogeyman oppressor. The truth is that he did carry out some pretty vicious actions during his campaign there and was also oppressive in his general outlook towards Catholics, but he was in this country too. Judged by the standards of warfare of the day and during the 30-years war, of which our little civil war was just a part, he wasn't all that extreme. He is also often wrongly blamed in Ireland for the subsequent starvation, but this has been shown by historians to at least partly be down to the activities of Irish landlords and also down to the activities of people Cromwell or Parliament appointed, rather than Cromwell himself. Not saying there isn't truth to the allegations, just that they have become somewhat overblown and mythic.

    On the "he became a despot replacing a despotic king" line of attack, there is a complicated story. He did repeatedly try to negotiate with the King and he appears to have decided on the course of regicide out of a kind of political desparation. He only reluctantly accepted the role of Lord Protector and became more of a dictator when he determined that Parliament was chaotic and unable to govern - he was also pressured by many of his supporters to accept the role.

    What I do think is utterly clear though is that he represented, not the working people of England, the ordinary soldiers or those who had campaigned for real change, but a particular class of wealthy landowners. His harsh retaliations against the officers who demanded real change and democracy in the Putney Debates demonstrate that he was acting to preserve the interests of the landed gentry. The war against Charles, in which he was a skilful and effective commander, but not the top commander, was a war between this class and the Monarch.
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    I like to think of him as the great appeaser.

    Post-revolution England was in a conundrum and looking more and more like a paradox - there were those who wanted to consolidate the revolution and bring back law and order and be happy with what had been achieved (Puritans and Parliamentarians) and there were those who wanted to take the revolution even further (the army). Bang in the middle of both the forces was Cromwell, who had vested interests in both sides.

    When you talk of him banning Christmas, dancing etc. it is not actually Cromwell acting like a tyrant but him trying to appease the more conservative forces in the revolution (Parliament and puritans). Cromwell himself was actually a liberal and very tolerant, evident in his demands for more tolerance for Quakers and Anabaptists and all other sects.
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    (Original post by Fullofsurprises)
    Quite a bit of applying modern values to events 350 years ago in some of the arguments here. On Ireland for example, I don't think it's proven that he was the evil madman he is characterised as - he plays a key role in Irish myth making, a sort of ultimate British bogeyman oppressor. The truth is that he did carry out some pretty vicious actions during his campaign there and was also oppressive in his general outlook towards Catholics, but he was in this country too. Judged by the standards of warfare of the day and during the 30-years war, of which our little civil war was just a part, he wasn't all that extreme. He is also often wrongly blamed in Ireland for the subsequent starvation, but this has been shown by historians to at least partly be down to the activities of Irish landlords and also down to the activities of people Cromwell or Parliament appointed, rather than Cromwell himself. Not saying there isn't truth to the allegations, just that they have become somewhat overblown and mythic.

    On the "he became a despot replacing a despotic king" line of attack, there is a complicated story. He did repeatedly try to negotiate with the King and he appears to have decided on the course of regicide out of a kind of political desparation. He only reluctantly accepted the role of Lord Protector and became more of a dictator when he determined that Parliament was chaotic and unable to govern - he was also pressured by many of his supporters to accept the role.

    What I do think is utterly clear though is that he represented, not the working people of England, the ordinary soldiers or those who had campaigned for real change, but a particular class of wealthy landowners. His harsh retaliations against the officers who demanded real change and democracy in the Putney Debates demonstrate that he was acting to preserve the interests of the landed gentry. The war against Charles, in which he was a skilful and effective commander, but not the top commander, was a war between this class and the Monarch.
    You make the point of not being anachronistic in the first paragraph but then go on to commit a similar fallacy in the last paragraph .

    I don't think Cromwell had any explicit class interests; he was responsible for great strides made in English Poor Law during his time.
    Also, there wasn't any harsh retaliation against officers in the Putney Debates. The moderates of the debates, including Lambert, were much ideologically akin to him, and he was even prepared to listen to the more radical officers.
    The only harsh retaliation was against rank-and-file soldiers responsible for mutinies and disorder in the ranks - which again reinforces my previous argument that he was a pragmatic man trying to appease both the conservative and radical elements of the revolution; bringing back law and order while at the same time carrying on his franchise of social change.
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    (Original post by TheUbermensche)
    You make the point of not being anachronistic in the first paragraph but then go on to commit a similar fallacy in the last paragraph .

    I don't think Cromwell had any explicit class interests; he was responsible for great strides made in English Poor Law during his time.
    Also, there wasn't any harsh retaliation against officers in the Putney Debates. The moderates of the debates, including Lambert, were much ideologically akin to him, and he was even prepared to listen to the more radical officers.
    The only harsh retaliation was against rank-and-file soldiers responsible for mutinies and disorder in the ranks - which again reinforces my previous argument that he was a pragmatic man trying to appease both the conservative and radical elements of the revolution; bringing back law and order while at the same time carrying on his franchise of social change.
    Yes, it's true that in my last para I was reflecting on a sort of modern neo-Marxist analysis of his class situation, I was really seeking to counter the view that he was somehow a "revolutionary", whereas a better analysis is that he was seeking to advance the class interest of Protestant Gentlemen.

    I think he did to some extent get lulled by the trappings of supreme power in his last years and did become mildly tyrannical and was judged as such in his own times.
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    (Original post by Fullofsurprises)
    He only reluctantly accepted the role of Lord Protector and became more of a dictator when he determined that Parliament was chaotic and unable to govern - he was also pressured by many of his supporters to accept the role.
    I'm afraid I've got to call you out on that. Cromwell did not reluctantly accept the role of Lord Protector. He umm'd and ahh'd over whether to accept the position of monarch for one simple reason. The army. If he accepted the crown, his head would have been on London bridge by the end of the month! His backbone was the army, and what they said he followed. He was offered the Crown in the Humble Petition and Advice in 1657. He rejected it purely down to the offer of the title of King due to pressure from the army. Parliament went away and changed the title - that's it - to Lord Protector. He accepted that in a heartbeat.

    He's often referred to as King in all but name. This is, from the research that I've carried out, pretty much accurate of the commonwealth.
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    (Original post by Fullofsurprises)
    Yes, it's true that in my last para I was reflecting on a sort of modern neo-Marxist analysis of his class situation, I was really seeking to counter the view that he was somehow a "revolutionary", whereas a better analysis is that he was seeking to advance the class interest of Protestant Gentlemen.

    I think he did to some extent get lulled by the trappings of supreme power in his last years and did become mildly tyrannical and was judged as such in his own times.
    Well breaking the feudal economic stronghold and establishing the primacy of parliament is pretty revolutionary, no?:emo:

    And yeah, mildly!
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    The greatest villain in Irish history.

    The Penal Laws basically condemned Irish Catholics to be second class citizens in their own country until Catholic Emancipation in the 19th century. It was a form of apartheid that if carried out today would have Western society screaming blue murder. Of course we can't judge him by modern standards but when I look at the extent of the damage he did in Ireland and how long it took for repair it's impossible view him in any way but extremely negatively.

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