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Oliver Cromwell and Religion

Cromwell was by upbringing a Puritan although devotedly so only from the 1620s. His tutor, Dr Thomas Beard had a strong influence upon him, particularly the notion of ‘Providence’. Oliver Cromwell strongly believed that things were meant to happen, divine providence would make or break people, he certainly believed he was marked out for greatness to fulfill God’s will.

As well as been chosen by God himself, he also believed that England was a chosen nation. Like many of his contemporaries he was fervently anti-Catholic and opposed to Laud’s changes to the Church of England. His toleration was demonstrated by allowing the Jews back into England (expelled at the behest of Edward I) and the acceptance of Protestant sects such as the Quakers.

Oliver Cromwell was strange in that he saw toleration as a good thing, more than one Protestant sect could know the truth, only Catholicism was beyond the pale. As would be proved later Oliver did not believe toleration should be shown to the Irish, particularly after the slaughter of Protestants in 1641. Anglicanism was formally abolished but Cromwell was less concerned about enforcing orthodoxy or state religion than Laud had been or the Scots Presbyterians were. Morrill sums this up by stating ‘He was unusual in believing that, in this fallen world, the elect were scattered amongst the churches’. In religious terms this made him a radical and accounts for his zeal in fighting the civil wars.


Ashley, M. the English Civil War (1990) 2nd edition, Alan Sutton Publishing

Dodds, G. L. Battles in Britain 1066 – 1746 (1996) Brockhampton Press

Fraser, A. Cromwell Our Chief of Men (1973) Weidenfeld & Nicholson.

Hill C. the Century of Revolution 1603 – 1714 2nd edition (1980) Routledge.

Morgan K.O (editor) The Oxford Popular History of Britain (1993) Paragon.

Morrill, J. Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution (1990) Longman

Schama, S. A History of Britain – The British Wars 1603-1776 (2001), BBC Worldwide, London.

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