The Letters, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell by John Morrill (ED) - review by Andrew Roberts

Andrew Roberts

Doing God’s Work

The Letters, Writings and Speeches of Oliver Cromwell

By

Oxford University Press 3 Volumes 2,157pp £570 order from our bookshop
 

This is one of the great works of modern scholarship. Professor John Morrill of Cambridge University and eight other editors have, after fifteen painstaking years, compiled all 1,077 of Oliver Cromwell’s letters, writings, recorded conversations and speeches, collecting them into three separate volumes totalling more than two thousand pages. Each document is titled, dated, given its provenance and introduced with a passage providing its historical and historiographical context. The level of precision is to be marvelled at, and Cromwell will not now need another such edition for at least a century.

The Cromwell who emerges from these three volumes is of course the religious fanatic we already know, but he is also a wordsmith who had mastered the English language before he went up to Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, and wrote succinctly and with a directness that brooked no misinterpretation. Many of his letters are worth reading for their literary as much as their historical interest. ‘At an early stage of proceedings we decided that the edition should seek to give us “Cromwell’s voice”,’ Morrill states, and these volumes certainly do provide that, though the decision to preserve Cromwell’s original spelling, punctuation and even his crossings-out means that the reader has

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