Why, asks Professor Ronald Hutton in the opening line of his new biography of Oliver Cromwell, another book about Oliver Cromwell? He answers his question both in his introduction and, more extensively, in his book. There are large stretches of Cromwell’s life of which there is little trace when it comes to reliable historical evidence, not least the years before he played his significant part in Parliament’s victory in the First English Civil War, from 1642 to 1646. These are the years upon which Hutton focuses, and he is at pains to explain throughout his account just what he can reliably find out (often from the broadsheets of the time) and what he cannot. He is not the sort of academic who would make disrespectful remarks about his peers and rivals, and he does not, but the message one receives, from the lengths to which he goes to tell us just what can be known and what cannot, leads one to conclude...

 

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