Oliver Cromwell in Ireland (Commentary)

This commentary is based on the classroom activity: Oliver Cromwell in Ireland

Q1: Give one possible reason why Sir Arthur Aston did not surrender to Oliver Cromwell on 10th September, 1649.

A1: Sir Arthur Aston probably thought that his army could withstand Cromwell's attack. Another possible reason is that he did not trust Cromwell and thought that he would kill his men if he surrendered.

Q2: Study source 2. Why, according to Cromwell, had he brought his army to Ireland?

A2: Cromwell claimed he had brought his army to Ireland so that he could: (i) punish the "blood-thirsty Irish"; (ii) "propagate the Gospel of Christ"; (iii) restore peace and order.

Q3: Select sources from this unit that provide information on: (i) the weapons and tactics Cromwell used in Ireland; (ii) Cromwell's religious beliefs.

A3: (i) Source 3 shows how Cromwell used the tactic of threatening his opponents before attacking them. Source 7 indicates he was willing to carry out these threats. Sources 6 and 8 provides information on the weapons Cromwell's army used in Ireland; (ii) Source 2 reveals Cromwell's strong religious beliefs. To Cromwell, the "establishment of truth", meant the establishment of Protestant beliefs.

Q4: Why do some historians believe that Oliver Cromwell was a "war criminal"?

A4: Oliver Cromwell (source 7) admits carrying out atrocities against the Irish catholics. This includes what happened at St Peter's Church: "about 100 of them fled to St Peter's Church... they asked for mercy, I refused... I ordered St Peter's Church to be set on fire".

Pauline Gregg (source 5) and Christopher Hill (source 9) both point out that Cromwell ordered his soldiers to kill civilians: "From the whole engagement there were few prisoners, and these were sent as slaves to the Barbadoes. Every priest in the town was killed. Even civilians perished, though immune by the rules of war."