Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Oliver Cromwell: Politics and Religion in the English Revolution, 1640-1658, David L. Smith ( Cambridge Topics in History series, Cambridge University Press, 1991), 120pp., £4.95 paper, ISBN 0 521 388961.

" Do not trust to the cheering, for those very persons would shout as much if you and I were going to be hanged'. Oliver Cromwell.

David L. Smith is a historian of some merit. He is an expert on the Early Modern period of British history. He is particularly interested in the political, constitutional, legal and religious history in the Stuart period.

He is the author or co-author of eight books and the editor of four others. David L Smith’s book on Oliver Cromwell from the Cambridge University Press Topics in History provides us with an excellent introduction to Oliver Cromwell and his place in history. It is not an orthodox biography of Cromwell but a guide to study. It works both for A Level students, those taking degrees or the general public.

A significant amount of scholarship published on Cromwell and the English Revolution, in general, have prompted some university examination boards to reflect this at the Advanced level.

It is hoped that this publication is the start of more less expensive resources being made available to teachers and students alike. After all, it is not that cheap to study the 17th century or any other time for that matter.

Smith ‘s book has managed to combine a  high academic with a relatively small price. The book shows a significant objectivity towards its subject. The book neither favours or criticises Cromwell.  Smith does not pad the book out with long winded explanations of events or Cromwell’s action. He provides the academic or general reader with strong notes to carry out further studies. The book appears when there is a significant re-evaluation of Cromwell and his place in the English Revolution.

Despite having only a hundred and twenty words to play with Smith has made excellent use a wide variety of primary sources. Smith’s book is a useful tool in navigating the choppy water that is the English Revolution. 

The book has been well received with Irene Carrier saying “It is a masterly selection from a bewildering profusion of Cromwellian material. It provides a cogent overview of staunchly held opinions and interpretations. A hint of a rather mechanical thesis, antithesis, synthesis approach in the Introduction is occasionally intrusive. Again, the British dimension merits fuller cover age, both during the 1640s and the Protectorate. After all, Cromwell was 'Lord Protector of England, Scotland and Ireland'. Limitations apart, this book is lively, provocative and an essential stimulus for Advanced level students”.[1]

[1] Oliver Cromwell: Politics and Religion in the English Revolution, 16401658, (Cambridge Topics in History series) by David L. Smith Review by: Irene Carrier Source: Teaching History, No. 67 (April 1992), p. 38

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