The Making of Oliver Cromwell


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Ronald Hutton

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The first volume in a pioneering account of Oliver Cromwell—providing a major new interpretation of one of the greatest figures in history

“Hutton’s book is intelligent, well documented, and stylish.”—Keith Thomas, New York Review of Books

Oliver Cromwell (1599–1658)—the only English commoner to become the overall head of state—is one of the great figures of history, but his character was very complex. He was at once courageous and devout, devious and self-serving. As a parliamentarian, he was devoted to his cause; as a soldier, he was ruthless. Cromwell’s speeches and writings surpass in quantity those of any other ruler of England before Victoria and, for those seeking to understand him, he has usually been taken at his word.

In this remarkable new work, Ronald Hutton untangles the facts from the fiction. Cromwell, pursuing his devotion to God and cementing his Puritan support base, quickly transformed from obscure provincial to military victor. At the end of the first English Civil War, he was poised to take power. Hutton reveals a man who was both genuine in his faith and deliberate in his dishonesty—and uncovers the inner workings of the man who has puzzled biographers for centuries.

Ronald Hutton is professor of history at Bristol University and a leading authority on the British Isles in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, on ancient and medieval paganism and magic, and on the global context of witchcraft beliefs. He is the author of eighteen books.

“Mr. Hutton writes in a mellifluous style, and his mastery of the material, displayed most clearly in the book’s endnotes, is impressive.”—Barton Swaim, Wall Street Journal

“Hutton is a distinguished historian of 17th-century England, and writes with dispassionate authority about the religious and political context of Cromwell’s early life. The result is an absorbing story of a man born into relative wealth and security, apparently lacking ambition yet with an impulsive, brooding temperament.”—Jerry Brotton, Financial Times

“[Hutton] brings to this biography an acute sensitivity to the religious debates; and he has a feel for geography and landscape which enlivens the narrative throughout. He writes, as ever, with fluency and flair. . . . In Hutton’s account, we see the real measure of the man. . . . For an up-to-date view this book now leads the field.”—Michael Braddick, Times Literary Supplement

“Hutton’s book is intelligent, well documented, and stylish.”—Keith Thomas, New York Review of Books

“[Hutton] is incapable of writing a dull sentence. . . . No one can read this book without coming away with their understanding of Cromwell deeply enriched.”—John Adamson, Sunday Times

“[Hutton] uses his deep knowledge of the period, and not a little wit, to ask the right questions and when no definitive answer can be given, as is often the case, teases out plausible explanations. He makes a virtue of this tentative, uncertain but enthralling process, inviting the reader into a shared experience of discovery.”—Paul Lay, The Times

The Making of Oliver Cromwell had me spellbound...The way in which [Hutton] weighs the evidence for each theory about the young Cromwell exhibits the finest aspects of the historian’s profession...The product of a lifetime’s study, the book has changed my view of the Lord Protector.”—Andrew Roberts, BBC History Magazine ‘Books of the Year’


“With painstaking research and imaginative sympathy, Hutton recreates his world from the ground up...teasing out the tensions between [Cromwell’s] deep religious faith and political ambition. A landmark biography and model of historical scholarship.”—Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times ‘Books of the Year: History’

“I loved The Making of Oliver Cromwell...The drama is always vivid, with the 1644 battle of Marston Moor is a particular highlight; the evocation of the seasons beautifully done.”—Tom Holland, BBC History Magazine ‘Books of the Year’

“Excellent. Hutton combines outstanding story-telling with impressive analysis. For the first time he cuts through Cromwell’s earnest talk to the slyness. What emerges is something we have not had for a very long time – a really ‘fresh’ life of this major figure in British history.”—John Morrill, author of Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution

"Hutton has given us a rich and radical reassessment of Oliver Cromwell. Essential reading for all who wish to understand this towering figure and his turbulent times.”—Miranda Malins, author of The Puritan Princess

“A gripping, often lyrical and sometimes waspish biography that succeeds brilliantly in its aim: making sense of the most complex and fascinating man in British history.”—Tom Holland, author of Dominion

“A brilliantly fresh and original account of the early life of Oliver Cromwell. Powerfully written, stunningly well-researched and brimming with new insights and perspectives, Hutton’s book provides us with perhaps the most vivid and immediate portrait we have ever had of the future Lord Protector.”—Mark Stoyle, author of Soldier and Strangers

“[Hutton’s] analysis of Cromwell’s military campaigns is outstanding. He writes of grand strategy with crystal clarity, and his battle narratives are vivid, imaginative, and gripping.”—Neil Faulkner, The Past

CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2022
ISBN: 9780300257458
Publication Date: September 7, 2021
424 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
20 color illus., 10 maps
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