Oliver Cromwell’s speeches as Lord Protector – The Property Chronicle
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Oliver Cromwell’s speeches as Lord Protector

The Historian

Extensive records survive of Cromwell’s speeches during his years as Lord Protector (1653-58), and they tell us much about both the man and the age in which he lived.  They reflect his intense religious faith and his grappling with the issues and dilemmas of the English Revolution.  We know that he spoke either from notes or extempore, rather than from prepared texts, but it was usual for him to authorise the versions published shortly afterwards.  This means that they genuinely capture Cromwell’s ‘voice’.

Many of Cromwell’s longest speeches were to the Parliaments that met periodically during his Protectorate.  One of the greatest ironies of his career was that this figure, who had played such a crucial role in Parliament’s armies during the English Civil Wars, then found it extremely difficult to establish a stable working relationship with Parliaments when he was Lord Protector.  This was above all because so many members did not share his commitment to liberty of conscience and felt that extending religious toleration ran the risk of unleashing ‘errors, heresies and blasphemies’.  They were anxious lest liberty turn to licence.

The Historian

About David L. Smith

David L. Smith has been a Fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, since 1988 and Director of Studies in History since 1992. His books include Constitutional Royalism and the Search for Settlement, c. 1640-1649 (1994), A History of the Modern British Isles, 1603-1707: The Double Crown (1998), The Stuart Parliaments, 1603-1689 (1999), and (with Patrick Little) Parliaments and Politics during the Cromwellian Protectorate (2007). He has also edited two series of A-level History textbooks for Cambridge University Press.

Articles by David L. Smith

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