Friday, 13 September 2013

A short Interview With Historian John Morrill

This a Q&A with John Morrill and his team of researchers. John and his team have been working on A New Critical Edition of all the Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell.  My article on this work can be found with this link

Is this a definitive version of Cromwell’s writings or is there more to be done

Nine of us have spent two years tracking down Cromwell material. We have found little significant new material (although we do have new versions of some of the speeches) but we have tracked down a lot of items not seen since they were poorly transcribed in the 18th and 19th centuries. We think it very unlikely, but not impossible, that there is unknown material ‘out there’

How different an Oliver Cromwell do we get from your research?

There is nothing transformative. But by excluding a few items that we think are apocryphal and improving the texts for some important letters and understanding the context better, we think there will be a lot of small things that cumulatively will make quite a difference – how much will only be realised when I complete my new biography based on the new edition in 2015 or 2016.

What was the most difficult problem encountered by your researchers?

A high proportion of Cromwell’s letters and speeches exist not in autographs but in multiple early copies – especially for the late 1640s and early 1650s when we have multiple print versions of each letter but no manuscript. And most of the speeches he made to his Parliaments are in multiple copies from different scribes. Stabilising those texts has been rewarding but difficult.

Are the comment sections of the writings a move away from the previous historiography on Cromwell?

We will publish three volumes of ‘texts’, each writing or speech with a contextual headnote and normal footnotes saying who people are, noting major differences between the various versions etc. And there will be two companion volumes – one a set of essays on the edition (Cromwell’s handwriting, why some things survive and others don’t and exploring the reliability of texts which are not autographs etc.) and one a set of interpretative essays by a range of scholars as they work with the new edition – Cromwell’s faith, his politics, his relations with his family, with the Army, with Parliament etc.). We think this will make the edition much more reliable than earlier ones, much more usable and much more useful

5. Are the volumes aimed primarily at an academic audience or do you plan to make them accessible to a wider audience?

The texts are presented in their original spelling and punctuation and so a bit harder to follow than modernised ones would have been, but the contextual headnotes and footnotes should allow anyone with an interest in the period to use the volumes. It will be available online with Oxford Scholarly Editions online which will be the first port of call for scholars; but it will also be in handsome volumes of 800, 800, 800, 400 and 400 pages

What is the launch date for publication?

We have completed the searches, completed the transcriptions and decided in almost every case which version to use as our ‘proof text’. Nine of us will now write the headnotes and footnotes and hope to complete that by September 2014, with a publication by the end of 2015.