Friday, 10 September 2010

Some Short Notes on Oliver Cromwell by Dorothy E Muir.

1. This is a curious biography in the sense that it is the most openly pro Cromwell biography I have come across so far. I think I lost count the number of times she calls Cromwell by his first name.

2. I have tried to find biographical details on her but so far I only know she wrote a biography of Queen Elizabeth I. Professor Thompson if you read this blog please send me any details you have.

3. From a political standpoint she seems conservative with a small c, although having seen the chapter on England’s Greatness perhaps she is a conservative with a big C

4. The book is well written and follows a standard biographical path. It is not very analytical and contains very few gems of insight into Cromwell. Having said that some of her research is not without merit. Muir’s writing on Ireland is interesting and balanced in the sense she does not downplay the violence employed by Cromwell which was in keeping with the time.
More importantly she puts great emphasis on Cromwell’s economic policy towards Ireland. This was extremely significant in so much as Cromwell gave her equal trading rights as the colonies and other European countries and engineered free trade between the two countries. I would like to do more research on this matter. I do not intend to get into the political/military side of the relationship at least not at this stage of my education on the English revolution.

5. Her analysis of the Levellers, Diggers etc. is ok but the title of the chapter Puritan Communists is not really helpful. She falls into the trap that a few better historians have fell into labelling the Diggers as Communists. While the Levellers and Diggers in their writings contained elements of communist tendencies a number of the more radical and by radical I mean those around the Communist Party historians group and the SWP (Socialist Workers Party) have a tendency to exaggerate their importance and give the impression that the objective forces for the party and programme existed.

6. The Communist Party historian group while doing important work on the Levellers and Diggers they have a tendency to as Dave Hyland said in his lecture have a tendency at a “glorification of an unbroken historical line of English radicalism.

7. I have just received a copy of David Parkers book Ideology Absolutism and the English Revolution-Debates of the British Communist Historian’s 1940-1958. Will post some notes for a major essay soon.


This from Professor Thompson
This work belongs in the Nonconformist/Whig tradition of hero-worshipping Oliver Cromwell. After Thomas Carlyle, he came to be seen as embodying the values of religious and political freedom for which he was taken, like later Nonconformists, as standing. There was and is a strong hagiographical element in this line of analysis just as there is in Marxist/Socialist works on the Levellers and Diggers. Christopher Hill once compared early modern Puritanism and later Nonconformity to wine and vinegar. He was right.

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