Oliver Cromwell's is one of the most recognised names in history. But what is known of him? Was he a regicidal dictator, as David Sharp has claimed? Was he the military dictator described by Winston Churchill? The great poet John Milton, Cromwell's contemporary who called him 'our chief of men', and the writers Thomas Carlyle and Samuel Rawson Gardiner saw him as a hero of liberty. Leon Trotsky believed he was a class revolutionary. Crude popularity polls (eg BBC in 2002) rank him one of the 'greatest Britons of all time'. My friend Georgina Murphy, who grew up in County Cork, regards him as a genocidal monster.
A man of the middle gentry living in obscurity for most of his life, then MP for Huntingdon and Cambridge, a 'liberal' Puritan, a signatory of the death warrant of King Charles I, an able military and political leader, Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England [and Wales], Scotland and Ireland ... He was all of those things. So, 'hero' or 'villain'?
Professor John Morrill was educated at Altrincham Grammar School for Boys and at Trinity College, Oxford. He has taught at the universities of Stirling and Cambridge and is a fellow of Selwyn College, Cambridge, and of the British Academy. He is now a deacon of the Roman Catholic Church and holds several senior positions in the Diocese of East Anglia. For ten years Professor Morrill was president of the Cromwell Association, 'a body that seeks to promote public knowledge about and interest in Cromwell and his age'. Who better to guide us through an assessment of one of the giants - or monsters - of history?
A change to the programme
Our lecture on 24 November will not now be as stated previously. The new title will be Under the Satirist's Eye: Christopher Anstey's Poetical Portrayal of Eighteenth-Century Bath. Our guest speaker will be Gavin Turner.