Cromwell in America

As America built a vision of its past Oliver Cromwell became both angel and demon.

Statue of Oliver Cromwell, erected in 1901. Mike OBrien/Alamy.
Statue of Oliver Cromwell, erected in 1901. Mike OBrien/Alamy. 

The posthumous fate of Oliver Cromwell is as interesting as the life itself, given that his reputation has pivoted in so many different directions. Cromwell appeared in Italian plays, French polemics, German literature and the letters of the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly; but nowhere was his afterlife more pronounced and fraught than in the United States. It was inevitable that his name would live on in a North America populated by English, Scottish and Irish immigrants. But Cromwell was also baked into the American project from the beginning. For some he was claimed as a kind of honorary American, while others were repelled by his tyranny or imperial designs.

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