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Archiver > ESSEX-UK > 2004-01 > 1073298571

From: "R.S.Aylett" <>
Subject: Re: The Restoration
Date: Mon, 5 Jan 2004 10:29:31 +0000
In-Reply-To: <004901c3d367$314d5630$6bea2d52@yourkpfhbnwogn>

OK, one more go before I duck out of this, as it will get to bore
people soon. We are all at liberty to take a 'good guys' and 'bad guys'
view of history, but looking at it bottom up from the point of view of
those of our ancestors who were involved it often doesn't look like
that at all. If TV and its popularisation of history is involved I
suspect it is in reinforcing this 'heros and villans' view of history
as it is much easier to dramatise a few personalities than to deal with
all the complexity of large-scale social movements. All those ordinary
people most of us research were caught up in the movements of this
period and not as passive victims necessarily.

Cromwell has a statue outside Parliament because he championed its
power against the divine right of kings - this isn't a modern
assessment at all. In comparison with the Stuarts, who were not all
that effective as supreme rulers he was remarkably successful. It's
also true that he eventually came into conflict with Parliament and
closed it down, but ironically from the point of view of the present
discussion it was because he thought they were too extreme, just as
he'd thought the democratic ideas of the Levellers were too extreme.
The rule of the Major-Generals that followed his death was a factor in
the invitation to Charles II to return.

I suspect that many of the leading figures of that day (and of ours
too) could be dismissed as 'nasty pieces of work', but this doesn't
seem a particularly balanced approach and certainly not what you will
get from reading the history books. A popular though reasonably
scholarly account of Cromwell can be found in Antonia Fraser's
biography. Yes, on the Restoration his body was exhumed, dragged
through London behind a horse and his head displayed on a pike because
he had been a signatory of the death warrant for Charles I. Other still
living signatories were assassinated.

It seems to me to be more interesting to look at the impact of the
whole period on people living in Essex - and there were a lot of
positive as well as negative effects as I already suggested. No doubt
some people did join one of the armies out of poverty as Colleen
argues, but there is much more evidence showing that large numbers were
wholly committed to their political and religious cause - and indeed
that was what gave the New Model Army a lot of its clout both
militarily and politically. This was a continuation of the social and
political radicalism of the movement leading up to the civil war that
seems to have been very strong in Essex, often led by urban
craftworkers. You can call this religious fanaticism if you want to
pigeon-hole it, but religion and politics went hand-in-hand for nearly

The massacres in Ireland had a lot to do with this much larger movement
- the Irish were widely seen as savages (standard colonial power
thinking to this day) who had themselves massacred Protestant settlers:
there was a great deal of fairly hysterical propaganda about this. They
were also seen as a political threat because they were Catholics, and
remember Catholicism had a very bad name in both England and Scotland
at the time. Look at Coggeshall for example, where a number of people
had been publicly burnt to death in the reign of Mary, only a hundred
or so years earlier. There was a paranoia - not completely
unjustifiable - about what would happen if England was once again ruled
by a Catholic. In the end it seems to me more interesting and useful
to understand why the army ran amok like that than to put it down to
the evil of one man.


> Happy new year, and as usual you have hit the nail on the head, and
> yes
> Cromwell was a nasty piece of work just as you say. Its funny how
> even he
> is becoming 'politically correct' lately, I think its because of a
> general
> 'dumbing down' of our history, a lot to do I think with TV and their
> romantic view of certain periods. Unfortunately too many people take
> what
> they see on TV as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,
> rather than to take the time to read the history books, and get a
> balanced
> view.
> Take care,
> Patti
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Colleen" <>
> To: <>
> Sent: Monday, January 05, 2004 1:37 AM
> Subject: Re: The Restoration
>> ----- Original Message -----
>> From: "Ruth Aylett" <>
>>> Birth became temporarily less important than it had been and
> competence
>>> more important than it had been, while people who'd gone into the
>>> army
>>> experienced wider horizons and altogether different activity from the
>> usual
>>> run of things. So there is a vast amount of interesting stuff..
>> Birth actually became more important - if you were born a Catholic in
>> Drogehda, for example. Cromwell's ruthless military dictatorship
> mercilessly
>> crushed such people. He massacred 3,500 people in Drogheda, 1000 of
>> them
>> innocent civilians, men women, children and priests were slaughtered
>> in
> the
>> church where they'd taken refuge. Then he went on to slaughter another
>> 3,000 or so more in Wexford and only broke off the mindless slaughter
>> in
>> Ireland to slaughter some more in Edinburgh. Afterwards, 'Godly'
> Cromwell,
>> with no more conscience about such mindless bloodlust than you'd give
>> to
>> swatting a fly, wrote home that he'd 'knocked them on the head' like
>> all
> the
>> rest. He'd done that alright. The ends justified the means, they were
>> killed for the common good, Cromwell said, and he saw himself as the
>> only arbiter of what that good and end should be. And how familiar
>> that
>> sounds.
>> Parliament was ruled by the sword under Cromwell and the people by
>> fear.
>> Opponents were wiped out or imprisoned without trial. Yes, Essex men
>> and many others joined the model army of this ruthless religious
> fanatic,
>> but
>> what else could we expect of them? People who were often starving were
>> offered the chance of better wages than the poverty pay they could get
>> anywhere else in the army, of course they took it, what choice did
>> they
>> have?
>> Cromwell put an end to his Rump Parliament after stamping through it
>> like a madman, hurling personal abuse at its politicians and kicking
>> at
> the
>> ground beneath his feet. Setting himself up as Lord Protector - God's
>> all powerful representative on earth? - Cromwell even held a
>> Coronation
>> for himself, effectively taking the trappings and power of the King
>> and
>> Emperor he'd beheaded. He took to the unpuritan high life with gusto,
>> this alleged puritan who said that God was working through him. He
>> so loved the trappings of wealth and power that he'd claimed to
>> despise.
>> Delusions of grandeur? Very much so - and many other delusions
>> besides,
>> I'd say. There were echoes of the psychopathic, Stalinist and Nazi
>> cult
> of
>> personality in the reign of Oliver Cromwell.
>> As with so many tyrants, there was a horrible end to his story too -
> when
>> his body was exhumed, put on trial and hung and his head supposedly
>> displayed on a pike for some time to come. A mad end for a madman,
>> I say - and good riddance.
>> Colleen
Ruth Aylett Professor of Intelligent Virtual Environments
Centre for Virtual Environments, Business House, University of Salford
Salford, M5 4WT, UK Tel: 44-161-295 2912 Fax: 44-161-295-2925 "Life is beautiful"

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