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Oliver Cromwell And The Protectorate History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

He was an undistinguished Member in the Parliament of 1628 to 1629, and only rose to prominence after 1642 when his talent for training and leading cavalry became apparent. He was no revolutionary – he ruthlessly suppressed the Levellers when their plans for social and political change became too radical. However, he  was no ordinary conservative English gentleman either:  his profound religious convictions and commitment to religious toleration set him apart from the social elite. Cromwell identified with the army he had helped to create and lead, and firmly defended its interests from all attempts to disband it..

Cromwell and the protectorate

The Protectorate is important in other ways. It was a British, not an English, regime, uniting England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland under a single system of government and, for the first time, giving all the component nations seats in a single, new, elected British parliament. It was also the first (and, to date, only) government in this country to be established and to operate under the terms of a detailed written constitution, which set out the composition and powers of the government.

When the Parliament met in July 1653, the Members with extreme religious views proceeded to demand reforms of the common law and of the church (especially its finance by tithes) that the more moderate members regarded as a dangerous attack on property.

o frightened were the moderate majority by these radical schemes that in December 1653 they voted to dissolve the assembly and return power to Cromwell.

The army Council thought again and drew up a new constitution called the Instrument of Government. It named CromwellLord Protector – he was not actually King of England, but he acted like one in the way he treated Parliament. So the Parliament assembled in September 1654, its first action was to debate whether Cromwell should have the power that the Instrument of Government had given him. In response Cromwell summoned a troop of soldiers who refused to admit any MP who denied Cromwell’s power. The Members heatedly debated every clause in the Instrument of Government, until Cromwell lost patience in January 1655 and dissolved the House.

Penruddock’s rising, and financial problems resulting from the first Protectorate Parliament’s failure to vote sufficient funds, led Cromwell to try a new form of rule.

Militias were created throughout England and placed under the control of Cromwell’s Major-Generals. These Major-Generals were given authority to suppress rebellion, enforce law, supervise local JPs and uphold morality.

The Second Protectorate Parliament

Still short of funds, Oliver Cromwell called another Parliament: which began September 1656. he  refused to allow anyone to sit who was known to oppose his rule (c. 100 MPs) and this led another 41 Members to quit as a demonstration of outrageIn 1657, the House condemned a Messianic Quaker but Cromwell was worried that parliament might later persecute other less radical people. This Parliament recommmended a new constitution  – the Humble Petition and Advice. It established a second chamber in parliament – an  Upper House of Cromwell’s appointees that could act as a check on the Lower House. The Humble Petition and Advice also moved back toward the traditional form of government in allowing Cromwell to appoint his successor. But despite the gradual return to traditional forms, Cromwell’s power was ultimately dependent on the large – and very expensive the army.

Cromwell’s Military Successes

The upkeep of the army was expensive, but it did enable Cromwell to pursue an active foreign policy in support of English and Protestant interests.

Cromwell first attempted to extend English power in the West Indies. An expedition sent in 1655 to seize Hispaniola failed miserably.

 The expedition withdrew to Jamaica and seized control from its 1,500 Spanish inhabitants. (Jamaica remained under English control until 1962).

In the Mediterranean, a fleet commanded by Admiral Robert Blake seized French vessels. He also attacked Porto Farina as a retaliation against its ruler, the Day of Tunis’ action in enslaving English sailors

Cromwell also pursued his war against the Spanish on land. He allied with France and defeated the Spanish army at the Battle of the Dunes (June 1658)

He was a natural military commander who helped the Puritans win the Civil War. – It was as a military commander that Cromwell first came to prominence. Despite no real military training as a soldier, Cromwell was naturally capable and was soon promoted from leading a single cavalry troop to the command of the entire Army cavalry. Cromwell had an instinctive ability to lead and train his men, and had great moral authority. He promoted men on the basis of their ability and character rather than social status, upsetting some generals. He was a deep thinker about military matters. In a war fought mostly by amateurs, these strengths were significant. His style of command was decisive at Marston Moor, at Naseby and at many other battles. Cromwell’s military abilities contributed greatly to the parliamentary victory in the Civil Wars, and they also determined that he would end the Civil War as the most powerful man in England.

He helped design the New Model Army – the first national Army. – In April 1645, parliament decreed that its Army was to be rebuilt on a national basis, replacing the old county associations. Cromwell was one of the key men in the planning, training and leading of the New Model Army. Although not wholly responsible for its creation, he was its leading architect.

He helped to create the Royal Navy.

He removed the social obstacles to advancement in the Army. – The English Civil War accelerated social change, and social distinctions were brushed aside in the pursuit of victory. The New Model Army was a military force based on a person’s ability rather than on their position within society. One of its leading officers had been a butcher before the Wars. Cromwell preferred that the men in the new force, like himself, were strong believers and they became a committed fighting force that truly believed God was on their side. However the removal of social obstacle meant that the New Model Army was also open to new ideas. 

Cromwell’s politic Successes

He was a successful politician, unafraid to speak his mind. – A little-known and inexperienced MP for Cambridge in 1640, Cromwell became one of the power-brokers in parliament by the late 1640s. From the beginning of the Long Parliament he was a firebrand, and a politician unafraid to challenge the established order. He was an outspoken critic of the bishops and one of the first to call for the established Church to be pulled up “roots and branches”. He further proposed the introduction of annual parliaments, insisting that parliament, and not the king, should appoint army generals. As the Civil Wars progressed, his military successes gave him greater political standing and power. His military victories gave him the confidence and motivation to intervene in, and to shape, political events.

He helped bring about Britain’s first, and only, Republic. – By the end of the second Civil War, Cromwell was convinced that the monarchy had to go and, indeed, that the king, Charles, had to die, in order to save the country more bloodshed. Cromwell was, therefore, instrumental in having the king tried and executed. His actions were influential in the development of democracy. – After his death and the restoration of the monarchy, it is easy to think that the whole experience of the English Republic was for nothing.+

Cromwell gave England fairer laws and efficient government. – Whilst Lord Protector of England, from 1653 until his death in 1658, Cromwell made the English laws much less harsh than they had been. He abolished the death penalty for many crimes. The government administration under Cromwell was the most efficient it had ever been in England. He insisted on standards of honesty and efficiency which English officials did not reach again until the 19th century. Judges, in particular, were required to be diligent and fair. He changed the way judges were appointed, so that good men filled these important posts. He headed a tolerant, inclusive and largely civilian regime, which sought to restore order and stability at home and thus to win over much of the traditional political and social elite. He made England strong and well respected abroad. – Because of the success of Cromwell’s government in raising taxes and spending revenue in an efficient way, and also because of his statesmanship and maintenance of a powerful Navy, Britain became one of the leading powers for the first time in its history. He also made an offensive alliance with France against Spain. He wanted a system of government that guaranteed fundamental civil rights, religious toleration and freedom of belief and that condoned quiet, but not open, political dissent. He had to face great opposition from all sides in imposing tolerance of religion on the English. 


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