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Cromwell: An Honourable Enemy - The Untold Story of the Cromwellian Invasion of Ireland Hardcover – April 13, 1999

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Brandon / Mount Eagle Publications Ltd (April 13, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0863222501
  • ISBN-13: 978-0863222504
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,695,120 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

35 of 46 people found the following review helpful By Jason Mc Elligott on August 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
This is a remarkable attempt to revise the accepted view of Cromwell in Ireland. For Reilly, a native of Drogheda, Cromwell was an honourable soldier who did not cause the death of a single unarmed civilian in his hometown. In Reilly's account Cromwell is a reasoned, enlightened "humanitarian" who has been the victim of his enemy's black propaganda. This is a startling thesis which, if it were true, would put generations of historians to shame.
It would be easy to ridicule Reilly's dreadful prose; his enthusiastic description of the McDonald's outlet in modern Drogheda will, unfortunately, remain with me for a very long time. Yet, the main weaknesses of this book are not stylistic, but historical. To be blunt, Cromwell: An Honourable Enemy owes more to Reilly's often expressed desire to "rehabilitate the memory of Cromwell in Ireland" than it does to any generally accepted rules of historical practice.
The author exhibits a profound unfamiliarity with the history of the English Revolution of the mid-seventeenth century. In his mind, Cromwell was a democrat, the leader of an oppressed nation which rose up against monarchical tyranny, thereby securing freedom and liberty. This was certainly the view of a number of historians writing in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, but it is an untenable position for anyone familiar with an undergraduate textbook written in the last fifty years. In actual fact, Cromwell was no more a democrat than Charles was a tyrant, and the English Revolution was not an expression of the popular will, but the product of a civil war fought between two small groups which were unrepresentative of the wishes of the population as a whole.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rerevisionist on July 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
It's a bit harsh to give this only four stars. Generally most things about this book are excellent. The sources are laid out fairly clearly - a bibliography, mostly 20th century and some nineteenth, and 'Miscellaneous Publications' including such things as a BBC programme, one edition of a newspaper, and a lecture. Each chapter has endnotes, and their references match up with the bibliography, at least usually.

However there are some niggles:

[1] Not many original documents are mentioned, and the presumption is they've been printed accurately. But one can never be sure. To be fair many have probably vanished or decayed or would be difficult to get hold of in the original.

[2] Reilly often enough says such-and-such a person never visited Ireland, or some similar definite statement; how can he be so sure? No doubt he's likely to be right, but ...

[3] He doesn't state the official Irish view of Cromwell. We're not all Irish, and some of us haven't been exposed to the Irish education system. Reilly does lay out clearly the object of Cromwell's military expedition, viz to control Ireland, and take lands from Royalists. But it's left rather unclear. Admittedly a revisionist book doesn't have to deal with every aspect of a topic, but the reason Cromwell's of interest in Ireland is exactly because of what he was supposed to have done. (As an example - take 'plantations'. They couldn't have been for spices, sugar cane, tobacco; were they trees? Or what?) Under the rules of the age, was it accepted that a supporter of a losing side should lose possessions?

[4] He doesn't give details of real or supposed massacres of Protestants before Cromwell got there. (Or subsequent events such as the 'Black and Tans').
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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on February 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Historian Tom Reilly was born in Drogheda, the site of one of Cromwell's most notorious alleged massacres. In this remarkably independent-minded book, he studies Cromwell's Ireland campaign of 1649-50. He finds that, contrary to myth, Cromwell did not indiscriminately massacre ordinary unarmed Irish people.

Before he started the campaign, Cromwell issued a proclamation, "I do hereby warn ... all Officers, Soldiers and others under my command not to do any wrong or violence towards Country People or persons whatsoever, unless they be actually in arms or office with the enemy ... as they shall answer to the contrary at their utmost perils." This was no empty threat: before even reaching Drogheda, Cromwell ordered two of his soldiers to be hanged for stealing hens.

His forces killed the military defenders of Drogheda and Wexford, not the townspeople, acting according to standard 17th-century military norms. Yet Jesuit Father Denis Murphy wrote, more than 200 years later, "to none was mercy shown; not to the women nor to the aged, nor to the young." He gave vivid descriptions of the killings of priests, but none of any killing of women or children. In fact, there are no eye-witness accounts of indiscriminate slaughter, or of the death of even one unarmed defender or of one woman or child.

Yet a leading historian, Professor Roy Foster, the Carroll Professor of Irish History at Oxford University, wrongly claims that the massacre of Drogheda's townspeople was `one of the few massacres in Irish history fully attested to on both sides'.

After the Restoration, Cromwell was the main target of political and religious attack. The Royalists attacked him on everything, especially the Irish campaign.
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