Putting words into Cromwell’s mouth

John Morrill is leading a major project to produce a new edition of Oliver Cromwell's words. Here he explains why an accurate record of the lord protector's utterances is so badly needed – and why that record may reveal a man who was even more devious and radical than we thought

A portrait of Oliver Cromwell

This article was first published in the February 2010 edition of BBC History Magazine

Oliver Cromwell’s words have been scrutinised and debated, dissected and plagiarised, rubbished and celebrated almost as much as any figure in British history. His speeches have been used by historians down the centuries to portray him as everything from the greatest Englishman who ever lived, to the embodiment of evil. This is, of course, only to be expected of one of history’s biggest hitters – but how can we be sure that such historians are working with a faithful record of the words actually uttered by the lord protector 350 years ago?

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