Cromwell Association Study Day – Saturday 16th October

A major research project to re-examine all of the known writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell is now in its final stages, with publication due in 2022. Led by Professor John Morrill, of the University of Cambridge, a team of academics has examined every document in close detail, including some that have never been previously published. It has been an enormous task and will provide a new basis for Cromwell scholarship for years to come, and the new edition will become the standard reference work for future generations.

The morning session will look at how the project has undertaken the work and some of the challenges it has created.  There will be opportunity for questions and discussion.

In the afternoon session Professor Morrill will debate with Professor Ronald Hutton the intriguing  question,

Can we take Cromwell at his word?

Programme (PDF)

10.30     Registration and coffee

11.00     Welcome and introduction. Professor Peter Gaunt

Peter Gaunt is professor in early modern history at the University of Chester. He has researched and written quite extensively on the civil war, on Cromwell and on central government during the 1650s and is the author or editor of sixteen books, including studies of the civil war in Wales, in England and Wales and in Britain as a whole and two (different) biographies of Oliver Cromwell. He is past chairman and current president of The Cromwell Association.

11.05 Cromwell for the digital age: why, how and what?  Professor John Morrill

The new  Letters, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell brings together all the material which reveals the “voice” of Oliver Cromwell. This paper will provide an overview of the project. There are some new items and a large number of holograph and autograph autographs never before accurately transcribed. It will be published in hard copy and as a highly searchable resource. What is and what is not in it; how was it prepared and why has been worth the effort.

John Morrill has served as General Editor edition and he is now writing a new full biography based on the new edition and aimed at a broad readership. He is simultaneously editing one of the four volumes in the Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism (covering 1641-1746) and enjoying being retired, sort of. John is past president of the Association and a current vice-president.

11.45 Editing Cromwell’s Speeches: Voice, Authenticity, and ‘too long a digression’. Dr Joel Halcomb

Well over 100 accounts of speeches by Cromwell have survived in various manuscript and printed sources. None were written by Cromwell himself. Editing Cromwell’s speeches is therefore really editing what other people heard. This talk will address the challenges we have faced in editing these texts, what our sources tell us about Cromwell’s audiences, and to what extent we might identify his ‘voice’.

Joel Halcomb is a lecturer in Early modern History at the University of East Anglia. He jointly edited with Michael Davies, Anne Dunan-Page, Church Life: Pastors, Congregations, and the Experience of Dissent in Seventeenth-Century England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019), and is an Associate Editor of, History, the journal for the Historical Association.

12.20 Oliver Cromwell, institutional interventions and constitutional innovation. Professor Jason Peacey

This paper reflects upon the experience of editing Cromwell’s papers during the period 1651-3, between his return from Scotland and his nomination as protector, highlighting neglected dimensions of his well-known ‘anti-formalism’. These vital months are often associated with famous episodes (dissolving the Rump), evocative conversations (about a monarchical settlement), and rhetorical performances (his speech to Barebones), but this paper reflects instead upon his activity as Chancellor of Oxford University, as well as his negotiations with the Dutch, in order to shed light upon his attitudes towards institutional conventions as well as constitutional forms.

Jason Peacey is Professor of Early Modern British History at UCL. His current research focuses on the political effects of petitioning and civil litigation in the seventeenth century, ideas and practices of citizenship in the early modern period, and Anglo-Dutch relations between 1609 and 1689.


14.15 Can we take Cromwell at his word?  A debate between Professor John Morrill and Professor Ronald Hutton.

John Morrill has spent his academic career studying Oliver Cromwell, culminating in the new edition of Cromwell’s writings and speeches. Ronald Hutton (University of Bristol) has also published widely on the seventeenth century, and part one of his new two volume biography of Cromwell will be published this summer. Professor Hutton takes a less benevolent view of Cromwell and cautions against taking Cromwell at his word.

3.30  Close


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