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Oliver Cromwell: God's Warrior and the English Revolution [Paperback]

Ian Gentles
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 19 2011 033368897X 978-0333688977
The first new biography of Oliver Cromwell in several years, this rounded account does equal justice to his public and private life, to his political career, his military abilities and his passionate religiosity.
Ian Gentles synthesizes much recent research including Cromwell's activity as a lay preacher, his patronage of the arts and his promotion of horsebreeding. Gentles also provides fresh findings on Cromwell's pay as a soldier, his personal enrichment as general and lord protector, his little-known erotic side, and his astonishing generosity in the cause of international Protestantism. At the same time, this approachable study provides a new assessment of Cromwell's genius as a soldier and sheds light on the suspenseful drama surrounding parliament's offer of the crown in 1657.
Ideal for students and general readers alike, this is an essential and stimulating introduction to all aspects of the life of a key figure in British history.

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Product Description


'The author's expertise in military history gives a distinctive flavour to the book...and strikes a balance between recent biographies.' -Mike Braddick, TLS

About the Author

IAN GENTLES is Visiting Professor of History at Tyndale University College, Canada. He has written many books and articles on the English Revolution.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
4.2 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars A Fast Paced Biography June 4 2013
By Patrick Sullivan TOP 100 REVIEWER
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Gentles sets out to describe Cromwell, the Puritan revolutionary leader. Gentles`s focus is on Cromwell`s character. He lists a lot of details, regarding Cromwell`s beliefs and personal life. Most readers will find the author succeeded in outlining, Cromwell`s positive and negative personality traits.

There is one area of the book, that was left to the readers imagination. Gentiles is unable to deliver, a feel for the current events of that time. He simply lists the events, without any descriptions or background information. One example was the cancellation of Christmas celebrations. Gentiles simply noted the event, and stated that many people ignored the ban. I would have also welcomed, some information regarding the public sentiment. The majority of English people, supported a return to the Monarchy after Cromwell`s death. Why was Cromwell unable, to muster more widespread support for an English Republic? These and many other questions, are left unanswered.

This book is a reasonable introduction to Cromwell`s life. However, a quick reference on Wikipedia, may provide a more convenient alternative.
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This book is less than 250 pages of reading, so intimidating length is not a problem here. Readers will find, nonetheless, that a lot of territory is covered with a surprising amount of detail and insight. Oliver Cromwell comes through in a convincingly well-rounded, human portrait. We understand the flaws that made his regime unsustainable and destructive, but yet we understand the good in him that made him admired by many. Ultimately Cromwell's lack of support among the public at large doomed his programme. There was too much conflict that usually ended with Cromwell defeating his opponents and driving them out of power. Whatever Cromwell's intentions and personal appeal, his achievements did not last. It would not be until the Glorious Revolution of the later 17th century that Britain established a more sustainable reform of government.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Fine Study of the "Inward Man" April 11 2012
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Ian Gentles's Oliver Cromwell: God's Warrior and the English Revolution is a recent and very welcome addition to the British History in Perspective Series edited by Jeremy Black. While Gentles recognizes that a biography of Cromwell may well work some of the same ground as worthies such as Hill, Morrill, Coward and Fraser, his research has also borne new fruit that will undoubtedly help us to better understand this complex, contradictory and controversial figure. Gentles packs a lot into 200 pages and those familiar with his previous work on the New Model Army and the English Revolution will recognize the clear and crisp writing style that makes his work so accessible to readers.

The book can be divided into two parts, with the first offering readers a narrative account of Cromwell's life up to the execution of the king in 1649, while the second half continues the story but is interspersed with thematic chapters examining Cromwell's religion, his finances and his tastes and interests. Gentles describes Cromwell as a 'fundamentally decent person' (in apparent agreement with Clarendon) but includes the caveat that Cromwell's career was blotted by his anti-Catholicism, a claim that could also be made about many of the Lord Protector's fellow countrymen in the seventeenth century. On Cromwell the soldier, Gentles refuses to equate him with his contemporary Gustavus Adolphus or with the likes of Julius Caesar, Alexander or Napoleon. There is much praise for Cromwell's organizational and motivational skills on the battlefield, but Gentles argues that despite Cromwell's important role at Marston Moor, Naseby and his victories in Ireland and Scotland, his relatively brief military service was but a 'temporary vocation' (130).
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5.0 out of 5 stars Someone New In My Life Oct. 22 2011
Last week, when I finished reading Professor Gentle's excellent biography of Oliver Cromwell, I realized that someone new, Oliver himself, had entered my life. Certainly not as a friend; but rather as a fascinating larger-than-life presence. From now on it will be all but impossible not to think of him from time to time, and getting him out of my life will be, well, impossible. Gentles has drawn him as alternately, and at once a riveting and amazingly energetic presence, a brilliant arch-manipulator and politician, to me at least an irritatingly confident God-freak (if not deluded, I think, on that score: I make this last point because to me faith without doubt is no faith, but rather, an egotist's parody of faith, and Oliver is without any doubt); a brassy and harsh military strategist, an unhesitating executioner, a weepy sentimentalist ... and much more. This is all quite fascinating, and it underlines the old adage that an institution is the shadow of a man. In this case we are talking about the entirety of the post-Cromwellian British system of government which, either directly due to or in reaction to what this man did, has shaped the reality of all nations born of Mother England. In that sense, Cromwell will live forever in our midst. I strongly recommend this book as at once an entertaining read and a very fine tutorial.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly Recommended and Well Written Aug. 26 2011
Prof. Gentles' book is superbly written in smooth, comprehensible English...a model of English style. You will not find the convoluted, tortuous, run-on sentences often encountered in academics with less ability. Gentles' English style is the art that conceals art while conveying the information with crystal clarity. Moreover, the content is some of the latest research on Cromwell, much previously unknown and unpublished. The result is a very pleasing, interesting, nuanced and useful biography of Cromwell. If you are expecting to find a monster, you will be disappointed. The evidence reveals Cromwell as a highly opinionated, forceful, but compassionate man, who used force to bring God's kingdom on earth...as he saw it. Cromwell was not totally intolerant of other religious practices...just intolerant towards monarchy.

But the British people still preferred monarchy after many years of Cromwell. Nevertheless, the monarchy in Britain never returned to the way it was before Cromwell's reforms. Gentles points out how many of Cromwell's changes remained after his death.

I found myself thinking of the similarity with the American puritans who only 120 years later began their own war against the Crown. However, George Washington was not such a politician as Cromwell, so the American saga turned out differently, with the hindsight the Americans gained from Cromwell's successes and mistakes.

If you have little or no knowledge of Cromwell, this is a good book to start with. Gentles, unlike many others, doesn't get bogged down in mountains of detail, but selects the right ones to make a true portrait of his complex subject. After reading this, you may have a bit more sympathy for Cromwell as I did, but nevertheless, he was a tyrant if a somewhat likeable one.
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