This book is a study of one of the most controversial figures in history: a soldier who first commanded a troop of cavalry when he was forty-three and became a great general, a small country squire who lived to rule in the palace of the kings. His life introduces the story of the English Civil Wars and the Puritan revolution which, together with the later bloodless revolution of 1688, was to transform the character of Great Britain. Cromwell began his political career as an extreme Puritan eager to overthrow the bishops and to reduce the prerogative powers of the monarchy. When the civil wars ended, Cromwell, as commander-in-chief, became discontented with the ‘Rump’ Parliament then governing, regarding it as arbitrary and intolerant. Displacing it, he became Lord Protector and struggled to establish a form of government that would give security and partial religious toleration. Although he failed to achieve an enduring settlement, the events of the Interregnum contributed to the emergence of constitutional monarchy and liberty of worship in later times.
Dr Ashley had devoted many years to the study of Cromwell and the seventeenth century.
The aim of the present book is to describe what the Puritan Revolution achieved and to explain Oliver Cromwell’s contribution to it. My intention has been to provide a clear and succinct narrative and to paint my picture upon a broad canvas, which finds room for Queen Elizabeth I as well as King Charles II. for a different and fuller appraisal of Cromwell’s life and work, readers may care to turn to The Greatness of Oliver Cromwell. Most reviewers seem to have thought that I satisfactorily established the nature of Cromwell’s greatness, though one or two could not be shaken from their conviction that he was a hypocrite. So many men, so many opinions. But I have taken notice of some criticisms in this book. I only hope that I succeed in what I set out to do here: to enable those who wish to learn about one of the most revealing epochs in the story of the British people to teach themselves its history.
FARMER AND PURITAN
Origins of the Civil War
The Outbreak of Civil War
The First Civil War
Parliament and the Army
The Execution of Charles I
The Birth of the Republic
Cromwell and the Dissolution of the “Rump” Parliament
Cromwell and the Shape of Government
The English People and the Protectorate
The English Commonwealth and the World
The Fall of the Republic
What the Puritan Revolution Achieved