Why Was Oliver Cromwell Justified Fighting In The War

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Oliver Cromwell is today held with outstanding virtue by many people in Britain. Numerous Britons still see Cromwell as the father of modern British democracy because of his role in the English Revolution. Nevertheless, his reputation in Ireland is altogether different. Cromwell spent nine months of his life in Ireland yet many Irish people see Cromwell as someone who was a genocidal monster hell-bent on massacring the Irish population. However, even when his writings are examined confusion about his aims is still apparent. Having heard of soldiers murdering and pillaging ‘the country people’ Cromwell sent a proclamation out around the whole island that declared,
‘I do hereby warn and require all Officers, Soldiers and others under my command
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When researching the 17th century the historian should take care with terms such as ‘war crime’. At this time there were no laws of war. Colonial powers were simply allowed to do what they wanted so long as they could justify the end result. Cromwell it seems always emphasized that it was wrong to allow blood to be spilt unnecessarily. He did this wherever he went in Ireland, but it was also something he did during the Anglo-Spanish war. Cromwell justified fighting in the war because of the ‘millions of Indians being so barbarously butchered by the Spaniards’. Of course using today’s values this can be seen as a power-hungry colonialist simply looking to expand territory overseas, however in Ireland the situation was slightly different. Cromwell would have seen Ireland as part of English. After all, the island had at least in theory been in English hands since the late 12th century. In Ireland Cromwell was punishing rebels. Therefore, going by even unwritten rules it is very hard to say that Cromwell committed a ‘war crime’. This does not mean we should condone massacres such as those at Wexford and Drogheda. It simply means that at this time Cromwell’s actions were a perfectly legitimate way of trying to put an end to …show more content…
To the Irish this period in the island’s history is seen as the iconic moment of English rule on the island. Cromwell ravaged the country in search of power. It did not matter who got killed or what they had done. In the strict sense Cromwell can therefore not be accused of ethnic cleansing. The accusation that Cromwell is guilty of religious persecution. To Cromwell those who were not Puritans were too big a risk to his power. The Roman Catholics proclaimed loyalty to the Pope while the Protestants pledged their loyalty to the King. Religious cleansing, if the historian even goes that far was conducted to gain power. It was not at all for religious reasons. The question of war crimes is perhaps the most difficult. At this time the idea of a war crime as we have today simply did not exist. Cromwell’s brutality might not have been the norm but at the same time if he could justify his actions then very little could be done to stop him from doing so. The fact is Cromwell led the New Model Army and used brutal tactics to make sure that he got his way and gained power. It did not matter what happened so long as he got what he wanted. If a surrender was offered, then he accepted it and treated his enemy with respect. By that stage they had submitted to him and they were already in his grasp. The campaign in Ireland was simply Cromwell’s way of terrorising the

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