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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging popular biography
Antonia Fraser's 'Cromwell, Our Chief of Men', at over 700 pages, is certainly monumental in proportion to its subject. Lady Antonia has succeeded in writing an engaging, comprehensive, and sympathetic biography of Oliver Protector that challenges us to re-examine this much-maligned giant of English (and indeed Scottish, Welsh, and Irish) history. Cromwell emerges as an...
Published on 22 Jun 2008 by Geschichtsliebhaber

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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cormwell our Chief of Men
Having read Geoffrey Robertson's Tyrannised Brief and the Levellers buy the same author I noticed I had a copy of Antonia Frasers Cromwell Chief of Men on my book shelves that I hadn't read. From the moment I started reading it I felt the author was a royalist sympathiser and when you get to the trial of Charles the first she doesn't hold back in all her maddeningly...
Published on 8 Sep 2010 by bishwop


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39 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An engaging popular biography, 22 Jun 2008
By 
Geschichtsliebhaber (Oldenburg, Niedersachsen) - See all my reviews
Antonia Fraser's 'Cromwell, Our Chief of Men', at over 700 pages, is certainly monumental in proportion to its subject. Lady Antonia has succeeded in writing an engaging, comprehensive, and sympathetic biography of Oliver Protector that challenges us to re-examine this much-maligned giant of English (and indeed Scottish, Welsh, and Irish) history. Cromwell emerges as an affectionate husband, friend, and father, a sincere Christian, a tremendously effective military leader and, despite his Irish atrocities, a humanitarian genuinely committed to alleviating the lot of the masses.

My greatest problem with Lady Antonia's account is that she seems torn between her like of Cromwell and her royalist convictions. This seriously plagues her description of the trial and execution of Charles I and Cromwell's agonising over whether to accept the crown in 1657. Lady Antonia concludes that the execution of the king was unlawful. So it certainly was, by the laws of the time; but by such standards the Nuremberg trials were equally unlawful. A sounder approach might have been to investigate the difficulties posed by a legal system that placed certain people above the law. Lady Antonia also refuses to give Cromwell credit for refusing the crown.

All in all, despite some downsides like the above, and some minor irritations (typographical errors and Lady Antonia's hostility towards the common comma), this is a well-written popular biography that is warmly recommended to all who wish to learn more (or, indeed, anything at all - as was the case with me) about the Lord Protector Oliver Cromwell.
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good...but long!, 2 Sep 2003
This book is initially a very daunting prospect. I found it quite easy to get into, though, and enjoyed the first third. After the Civil War ended, I felt it got a bit bogged down and tricky to remember who was who, but well worth the effort still. It certainly picks up again towards the end.
Overall a very well written and interesting book which really helps one to understand Cromwell. Certainly he was not unworthy of the title, Our Chief of Men. He puts the current breed of so-called 'politicians' to shame! A very good read and well worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Captivating (in parts), 22 Jun 2010
This review is from: Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men (Paperback)
The 'problem' with Antonia Fraser is that she's a woman! I don't mean that in any sexist way, God forbid, only in respect that her layout structure doesn't cater for the male population. This book is a mammoth undertaking and expertly reseached and written - 5 stars for that aspect, but how I craved for more detailed battle coverage and parlimentary strife and oratory.
The best part of the book is the first third, ie: the civil wars and the lead up to the conflicts. The middle section sags somewhat into boredom before rallying at the death. If the first third had been developed more and the less interesting early years of the Protectorate condensed, this would have been a far more interesting read than it is. However, that said, this is a major work on Cromwell and unlikely to be improved upon.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars an outstanding book of great depth, 8 Sep 1999
By A Customer
Although I had my doubts about reading a 700 page history book, I must say that as soon as I picked it up it was almost impossible to put down. The book charts The life of Oliver Cromwell from birth right through the civil wars to the end of his life. Lady Antonia Fraser has written a book that goes into not inconsiderable detail, she takes her information from many sources and weaves them together to produce a book that you believe tells the real story. Throughout this book you can read the way England came into the great civil wars, How the people reacted and how the two sides fought, both against each other and within their own ranks. The book endeared itself to me for many reasons, The detail is fantastic and helps you to understand why things took place and not just how. If there is a criticism then I think it must be that Cromwell does come across very well, He does not seem to be this cruel military leader who mercilessly cut down the Irish and brought havoc on the land. In the end though I am forced to conclude that the book is incredibly well written and an outstanding read. The book brought out a desire in me to learn more about the civil war and Englands history which no other book has ever managed. Antonia Fraser hits the mark here, a fascinating read.
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50 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cromwell, Our Chief of Men, 15 Feb 2002
By 
I have read some excellent biographies of Oliver Cromwell, but Lady Antonia Fraser's book is easily the best of them. Whether she is talking about Cromwell's character, or his ability as a soldier/statesman, she puts the record straight against the many false views of Cromwell, and shows him to have been, for England, "our chief of men". That Cromwell erred is not glossed over, as she paints him as he really was, "warts and all", but Antonia Fraser truly captures the Christian heart of the man that is so often neglected by other historians. Given her Roman Catholic background her account of this great Protestant leader is a truly remarkable one. Her pages on the battles and sites of the Civil War are written as though she personally had visited each one. She excels at the strategic overview of the war policies of both sides as they fluctuated under the pressure of events. She is superb, too, on the political complexities Cromwell had to contend with under his Protectorate. This book is detailed and very readable and is in my view the best biography of Oliver Cromwell available.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Leader of Men and Greatest of Men, 3 Dec 2012
By 
R. A. Read "Rod Read" (OldFenBoy Cambridgeshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men (Paperback)
Lady Antonia Fraser is an established and fine biographer, this thoroughly researched work is also a pacy read. Despite her title she never allows any class-perspective to cause her to vilify Cromwell, as he has been for centuries by the upper classes. However she still underplays his massive achievement as a leader and politician when top dog. He restored justice to the kingdom, rebuilt the navy, forged trading links with Europe and further afield, established our early American colonies and eventual empire and played fairly with all, including over religious toleration.

Because history is written by the winners, but only after his peaceful death in office, his tremendous morality and ability is consistently undervalued, even today. It should be shouted from the rooftops he was the greatest King we never crowned, because he had the good sense to refuse it! She is but the first - and relatively neutral step - to the proper acclamation which is his due.

From lowly common Fen farmer to expert cavalry general who recruited and promoted on ability only, and swiftly king in all but name in only twelve years, as well as peaceful statesman, is so exceptional we should place him at the pinnacle of English military, meritocratic, revolutionary, moral and political achievement, 'Leader of Men' indeed.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Cormwell our Chief of Men, 8 Sep 2010
This review is from: Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men (Paperback)
Having read Geoffrey Robertson's Tyrannised Brief and the Levellers buy the same author I noticed I had a copy of Antonia Frasers Cromwell Chief of Men on my book shelves that I hadn't read. From the moment I started reading it I felt the author was a royalist sympathiser and when you get to the trial of Charles the first she doesn't hold back in all her maddeningly partisan rubbish. I'm only up to the trial but of what I know of the facts having read many other authors on this subject she has got most of her facts wrong and is completely ignorant of John Cook the lawyer who prosecuted Charles who was a visionary for social justice and social welfare as a "non entity". I am very disappointed that she so ignorant of the facts of the trial in that she totally misses the point of why he was brought to trial in the first place in that he was a tyrant who waged war on his own people not once but twice where more people died in this country than they did in the first world war. If you want to read Cromwell I would suggest reading who wasn't married to a peer of the realm and of catholic religion.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ANOTHER MASTERPEICE BY LADY ANTONIA FRASER, 29 Aug 2013
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This review is from: Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men (Paperback)
This excellent book must certainly be the definative work on Oliver Cromwell.
Starting with his childhood and following comprehensivly his life until his death on 3rd September 1658.
Every event,every battle is described in detail,nothing have I found is missing from this biography
The perfect book for both student and Historians.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Opinion of 'Cromwell, Our Chief of Men', 26 Jun 2013
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The book is easily readable, informative, detailed and well researched . The historical characters are described very fairly and I would recommend the book to anyone interested in history, particularly 17th century English history
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Rights of the People Have Nowhere to Stand, 19 Dec 2013
By 
John Pratt (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men (Paperback)
Antonia Fraser goes by the feudal title of "Lady Antonia Fraser". So it is perhaps not surprising that in her biography of Cromwell she shows sympathy both for a king and for a man who became something of a king. She is less sympathetic towards the common people and those who reached towards democracy in a feudal age. Her account of Cromwell's life was so irritating for this reader with a democratic spirit that the flow of her narrative was repeatedly interrupted as I put down the book in exasperation.

Ms. Fraser's sympathies are with Charles Stewart, the hereditary ruler of Scotland and England as much as they are with Cromwell, who led his overthrow and execution. She seems to believe that the trial of King Charles was improper because it was not possible for him to be tried by a jury of his peers. But this notion that one is entitled to a jury composed only of those with an equal status in a class hierarchy is,of course, absurd. But Fraser goes further and endorses the belief that the king could not properly be tried at all.

Ms. Fraser seems overly concerned with Cromwell's ancestors and descendants just as monarchists are with those of their rulers. One can see why this may obsess monarchists. When Fraser indulges in this concern it seems to confirm her disdain for the people.

Her lack of sympathy for democratic values causes her to question the legitimacy of the Protectorate while defending the claim to legitimacy of monarchy. While she questions the legitimacy of legal proceedings against the king she seems to accept that kingship and the House of Lords had legitimacy. Of course they had formal legitimacy at the time, just as many modern dictatorships have a constitutional foundation. But that did not justify hereditary rule. And in any case this book is about a revolutionary period when those overthrowing oppressors had justice on their side if not formal legitimacy.

Fraser refers to the Lords as being "robbed" of power that was rightly theirs only if one accepts that a feudal order has legitimacy. But she does seem to believe that it did have such legitimacy. When some Lords refused to sit in a new second chamber of Parliament during the Protectorate she writes that the Lords' "own conception of their ancient rights" were "amply backed up by English history".

A "lord" is quoted as authority for, and the only authority for, Fraser's belief that "the actions of the (House of) Commons were not only inimical to the large majority of the population of England - not one in twenty supported it . . .". Fraser does not explain why the reader would want to rely on the word of a "lord". An hereditary legislator is hardly an impartial guide to the beliefs of the people. Perhaps he organised a poll of his servants.

When the author says that the country was "yearning" for the return of the king and that there was little support for the Commonwealth she feels no need to present any evidence for these claims apart from the rumours she reports.

It is clear that there was substantial opposition to the king in the army. But Fraser ignores this in her insistence that the people supported the king, as if the army was not drawn from the people.

She writes of a "universal spirit of withdrawal" following the executive of Charles Stewart but goes on to refer to the "cheerful vigour" of Cromwell and Ireton. So the withdrawal obviously was not universal and it is hardly credible that only two citizens remained outgoing.

But Fraser wants to persuade us that the execution of Charles Stewart was horrible and saddening. This would be more convincing if she wrote in similar terms of the countless Commonwealth soldiers who filled the battlefield ditches, killed by the soldiers of the king and lords she esteems. But it must be admitted that this indifference extends even to the Cromwell she admired. She refers to the restored monarchists' barbaric defilement of his body and the bodies of dead republicans as mere "coarseness".

Being on the side of monarchy Fraser is hostile to those who reject unwarranted privilege.
Once Cromwell seizes power Fraser's sympathies are with him, against the people. Fraser even refers to the people as Cromwell's subjects in all but name without any hint that this was wrong.

A brave woman who accosted Cromwell and asked for "those rights and freedoms of the nation that you promised us" she calls a "harpy". A woman admired by Cromwell is said to have "a brain and education beyond that of most of her sex". Certainly in a feudal society any educated woman or man would have had a better education than most of the population. But there seems to be an implication here that intelligence was exceptional in women.

The execution of three soldier supporters of the so-called Leveller movement is "incommodious" in Fraser's opinion. Those like the Levellers who wanted a more democratic society and government are referred to more than once as "extremists", a perjorative term in current usage.

John Lisburn, a man cited by the United States Supreme Court as a pioneer of the right of free speech is no more than a "bad penny" and "egregious nuisance" for Fraser. She writes that "sadly" not all religious minorities kept their mouths shut as the Jews did under Cromwell's rule.

And this biography does little to help us understand the contribution of the Christian independents to the development of democratic ideas and practices. Fraser even suggests that Cromwell might have been happy to attend a state church.

You may learn something from this book but you will find little appreciation of the importance of the revolutionary currents in seventeenth century England.
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Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men
Cromwell, Our Chief Of Men by Lady Antonia Fraser (Paperback - 24 July 2008)
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