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Cromwell: a select bibliography of books and articles

A select bibliography of books and volumes of collected articles
(where books have appeared in several editions, 
the date of the most recent is given)

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Biographical 
studies of 
Cromwell

Biographical studies of Cromwell are legion and range from excellent to dire. Although inevitably dated in places, the studies written by the two greatest late Victorian historians of the period remain masterpieces - S.R. Gardiner, Cromwell's Place in History (1897), Gardiner, Oliver Cromwell (1901) and C.H. Firth, Oliver Cromwell and the Rule of the Puritans (1900). Firth's book rests in part upon the biography he wrote for the Dictionary of National Biography in 1888, which itself provides a concise and thoughtful introduction to Cromwell. Of the more recent, twentieth-century biographies, J. Buchan, Oliver Cromwell (1934) is an elegant study, C.V. Wedgwood, Oliver Cromwell (1939) reflects the author's outstanding narrative skills, R.S. Paul, The Lord Protector (1955) is particularly strong on Cromwell's personal faith and religious policies, P. Young, Oliver Cromwell (1962) and J. Gillingham, Cromwell, Portrait of a Soldier (1976) both focus on Cromwell's military career, and C. Hill, God's Englishman (1970) is a brilliant and stimulating thematic study. A. Fraser, Cromwell, Our Chief of Men (1973) is a very detailed account and is probably the biography best known outside academic circles. I. Roots has edited a good collection of articles on the man and his policies, Cromwell, A Profile (1973).  

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New Studies

Turning to the 1990s, there has recently been a clutch of new biographical studies of Cromwell. B. Coward, Oliver Cromwell (1991) and P. Gaunt, Oliver Cromwell (1996) are both good, clear, up-to-date biographies, giving straightforward accounts of Cromwell's life and achievements. Although intended principally for students, general readers will find much of interest in D.L. Smith, Oliver Cromwell, Politics and Religion in the English Revolution (1991), which reproduces extracts from other historians and includes introductions and commentary. John Morrill has edited an outstanding collection of new writing on Cromwell, Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1990). As well as a general introduction, it includes chapters by Morrill on Cromwell's early life, by J.S.A. Adamson on Cromwell and the Long Parliament, by A. Woolrych on Cromwell's military career, by D. Hirst on Cromwell as Lord Protector, by D. Stevenson on Cromwell's attitude to Scotland and Ireland, by J.C. Davis on Cromwell's own religious beliefs and A. Fletcher on his religious policies, by J. Sommerville on Cromwell and political thought and lastly by Morrill again on contemporary views of Cromwell. P. Gaunt (ed), Cromwell 400 (1999), issued to mark the quatercentenary of Cromwell’s birth, is a collection of papers on Cromwell which first appeared in the journal Cromwelliana between 1970 and 1995. Last but by no means least, the new century and millennium have opened with a new biography, - J.C. Davis, Oliver Cromwell (2000) - in part a fairly brisk chronological account of the life, though in the main thematic assessments of Cromwell’s changing reputation and of the different aspects of his life and career.  

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Civil war and post-war politics

Some of the more general studies of civil war and post-war politics include substantial material on Cromwell. Thus C. Holmes, The Eastern Association (1974) has much on Cromwell's military career during the opening years of the civil war, A. Woolrych, Soldiers and Statesmen (1987) explores Cromwell's role and influence within army politics in 1647-8, and I. Gentles, The New Model Army (1991) gives some account of Cromwell's military career 1645-51. T. Reilly, Cromwell, An Honourable Enemy (1998) is a stirring reassessment of his Irish campaign; J. Wheeler, Cromwell in Ireland (1999) is a more traditional account. J. Grainger, Cromwell Against the Scots (1997) is a sound account of the Scottish campaign, while M. Atkin, Cromwell's Crowning Mercy (1998) explores the background to, and the battle of, Worcester. Aside from the military career, Cromwell's political role and career from 1648 to 1653 can be traced through the trio of detailed studies of the period - D. Underdown, Pride's Purge (1971), A.B. Worden, The Rump Parliament (1974) and A. Woolrych, Commonwealth to Protectorate (1982).  

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Lord Protector

We need more on Lord Protector Cromwell and on the Protectorate, though there is now an excellent and lively introduction to the Protectorate period, B. Coward, The Cromwellian Protectorate (2002), partly chronological, partly thematic in its coverage and assessments, supported by a detailed bibliography. There are some good PhD dissertations and a growing body of articles in specialist history journals, but many aspects of the Protectorate still await detailed examination in full-length books.  

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Protectoral Government

R. Sherwood, The Court of Oliver Cromwell (1977) is a thorough and perceptive examination of the Lord Protector's court and household, and Sherwood, Oliver Cromwell. King in all But Name (1997) argues strongly that as Protector Cromwell increasingly exercised much of the role and power of a traditional monarch. Many aspects of the 1650s and of Cromwell's role during that decade -  union and disunion in the British Isles, Welsh politics and religion, local government reform, the Protectorate parliaments and army politics - are explored afresh in the collection edited by I. Roots, 'Into Another Mould': Aspects of the Interregnum (2nd edn, 1998). On financial aspects of the Protectorate, M. Ashley, Financial and Commercial Policy under the Commonwealth and Protectorate (2nd edn, 1972) remains the most detailed study. The foreign policy of this period has recently been explored by T. Venning, Cromwellian Foreign Policy (1995) and the relevant sections of S. Pincus, Protestantism and Patriotism: Ideologies and the Making of English Foreign Policy 1650-68 (1996); the introduction to M. Roberts (ed), Swedish Diplomats at Cromwell's Court (1988) is also valuable. D. Hainsworth, Swordsmen in Power (1997) looks at some aspects of the army during the Protectorate and C. Durston, Cromwell’s Major-Generals (2001) is a detailed assessment of the semi-militarised system of local government tried in England and Wales in 1655-6. On the naval arm, see B. Capp, Cromwell’s Navy (1989). The Protector's handling of Scotland and Ireland is best explored in F.D. Dow, Cromwellian Scotland (1999) and T. Barnard, Cromwellian Ireland (2000) respectively. But there is room for much more on Cromwell's regime in England, on his role and powers as Lord Protector, on his relationship with the Protectorate council and parliaments, on his dealings with the army 1653-58 and on his religious policies.  

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Cromwell
portraiture

The best account of the portraiture of Cromwell is D. Piper, The Contemporary Portraits of Oliver Cromwell (1958), recently updated by J. Cooper, Oliver the First: Contemporary Images of Oliver Cromwell (1999). P. Gaunt, The Cromwellian Gazetteer (1987) is a guide to sites associated with Cromwell and includes his known itinerary. The conflicting interpretations of Cromwell amongst contemporaries and succeeding generations of historians are explored in R.C. Richardson (ed), Images of Oliver Cromwell (1993). The same theme is explored in the closing chapter of C. Hill, God's Englishman (1970), in the final essay in J. Morrill (ed), Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1990) and in several chapters of A.B. Worden, Roundhead Reputations (2001). L.L. Knoppers, Constructing Cromwell: Ceremony, Portrait and Print 1645-51 (2000) assesses the contemporary projection and representation of Cromwell. Cromwell’s demise in 1658 has been reinterpreted by H. McMains, The Death of Oliver Cromwell (2000), though many remain unconvinced by the account of deliberate poisoning presented there.  

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Articles in journals and chapters in broader collections

Turning from books and full-length studies to articles in journals and chapters in broader collections, there is remarkably little on Cromwell's early life, though B. Quintrell, 'Oliver Cromwell and distraint of knighthood' in Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 57 (1984) is informative. A.N.B. Cotton, 'Cromwell and the Self-Denying Ordinance' in History 62 (1977) is the best study of that episode. G.E. Aylmer, 'Was Oliver Cromwell a member of the army in 1646-7 or not?' in History 56 (1971) and C. Hoover, 'Cromwell's status and pay in 1646-7' in The Historical Journal 23 (1980) examine Cromwell's position immediately after the first civil war. D. Farr explores Cromwell's involvement in a legal dispute around the same time in 'Oliver Cromwell and a 1647 case in Chancery' in Historical Research 71 (1998). The later, Irish and Scottish military campaigns are examined by J.G. Simms, 'Cromwell at Drogheda, 1649' in The Irish Sword 11 (1973-4), Simms, 'Cromwell's siege of Waterford, 1649' in The Irish Sword 4 (1959-60), J. Burke, 'The New Model Army and the problems of siege warfare, 1649-51' in Irish Historical Studies 27 (1990) and C.H. Firth, 'The battle of Dunbar' in Transactions of the Royal Historical Society new series 14 (1900). Cromwell’s relationship with the English city where his active military career effectively ended in September 1651 is explored by S.K. Roberts, ‘Oliver Cromwell and the City of Worcester’ in Transactions of the Worcestershire Archaeological Society 3rd series 16 (1998).  

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The later stages of Cromwell's career

The specialist article literature is more important on the later stages of Cromwell's career. A.B. Worden has written a series of perceptive articles, mainly on Cromwell and religion: 'Toleration and the Cromwellian Protectorate' in W.J. Sheils (ed), Persecution and Toleration: Studies in Church History 21 (1984); 'Providence and politics in Cromwellian England' in Past & Present 109 (1985); 'Oliver Cromwell and the sin of Achan' in D. Beales & G. Best (eds), History, Society and the Church (1985); and, more on literature than religion, 'The politics of Marvell's Horation Ode' in The Historical Journal 27 (1984). On the religious theme, see also G.F. Nuttall, 'Was Cromwell an iconoclast?' in Transactions of the Congregational History Society 12 (1933-6).  

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Cromwell's Protectorate parliaments

A number of articles explore aspects of Cromwell's Protectorate parliaments: H.R. Trevor-Roper's crucial 1956 article on 'Oliver Cromwell and his parliaments', which was included in several later collections and is perhaps most accessible in I. Roots (ed), Cromwell, A Profile (1973); P. Gaunt, 'Law making in the first Protectorate Parliament' in C. Jones, M. Newitt & S. Roberts (eds), Politics and People in Revolutionary England (1986); I. Roots, 'Law making in the second Protectorate Parliament' in H. Hearder & H.R. Loyn (eds), British Government and Administration (1974); P. Gaunt, 'Cromwell's purge? Exclusions and the first Protectorate Parliament' in Parliamentary History 6 (1987); C.S. Egloff, 'The search for a Cromwellian settlement: exclusions from the second Protectorate Parliament' in Parliamentary History 17 (1998); D. L. Smith, ‘Oliver Cromwell, the first Protectorate Parliament and religious reform’ in Parliamentary History 19 (2000); T.A. Wilson & F.J. Merli, 'Naylor's case and the dilemma of the Protectorate' in University of Birmingham Historical Journal 10 (1965-6); and C.H. Firth, 'Cromwell and the crown' in English Historical Review 17 & 18 (1902 & 1903).  

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Cromwell’s 
ordinances

I Roots, ‘Cromwell’s ordinances: the early legislation of the Protectorate’ in G.E. Aylmer (ed), The Interregnum (1972) and J.R. Collins, ‘The church settlement of Oliver Cromwell’ in History 87 (2002) explore aspects of the work of Cromwell and the Council in the opening months of the Protectorate.  

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Cromwell's role 
and power as Protector

Cromwell's role and power as Protector are assessed in different ways by P. Gaunt, '"The Single Person's confidants and dependants"? Oliver Cromwell and his Protectoral councillors' in The Historical Journal 32 (1989) and A. Woolrych, 'The Cromwellian Protectorate: a military dictatorship?' in History 75 (1990); Woolrych answers his question firmly in the negative. The rise and fall of the regime of the Major-Generals are explored by I. Roots, 'Swordsmen and decimators' in R. Parry (ed), The English Civil War and After (1970) and C. Durston, 'The fall of Cromwell's Major-Generals' in English Historical Review 113 (1998) and ‘“Settling the hearts and quieting the minds of all good people”: the major-generals and the puritan minorities of interregnum England’ in History 85 (2000), though the principal arguments and findings of both papers have now been incorporated in Durston’s book on Cromwell’s Major-Generals (2001). J Raymond, 'An eyewitness to King Cromwell' in History Today 47 (1997) draws heavily on contemporary source material, as does D. Underdown, 'Cromwell and the officers, February 1658' in English Historical Review 83 (1968). D. Hirst, 'The failure of Godly rule in the English Republic' in Past & Present 132 (1991) and Hirst, 'Locating the 1650s in England's seventeenth century' in History 81 (1996) attempt broader if somewhat pessimistic assessments of the decade during which Cromwell's power and influence were at their height. A. Smith, 'The image of Cromwell in folklore and tradition' in Folklore 79 (1968) remains the best study of that fascinating topic. All aspects of Cromwell’s life and career are, of course, explored in the Association’s own journal, Cromwelliana, which has been published annually since the early 1970s.  

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Cromwell's 
own words

Perhaps the best way to approach Cromwell is through his own words. Many of his letters survive and we also possess texts of some of his public and state speeches. All the material then known was gathered together and printed in a very weighty, four-volume collection edited by W.C. Abbott, The Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1937-47); it was reissued in 1988, though it was not amended to include the small number of letters which had come to light since Abbott's original work. An earlier collection, not quite as full but far more concise and attractive, is T. Carlyle (ed), The Letters and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell; originally printed in 1845, it went through many later editions, edited first by Carlyle and then after his death by others, steadily growing in size as further material was added. More recently, I. Roots has reproduced all the major speeches (but not the letters) in Speeches of Oliver Cromwell (1989). Versions of Cromwell's speeches in the important debates held by the army in 1647 are printed in C.H. Firth (ed), The Clarke Papers, volumes I and II, originally published in 1891 and 1894 respectively, but recently (1992) both reprinted in a single volume with a new preface by A. Woolrych.

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