Alan Crosby finds out more about a pro­ject to list the names of Cromwell’s army of­fi­cers

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A new pro­ject lists Cromwell’s of­fi­cers

The civil wars of the 1640s were pro­por­tion­ately the blood­i­est in our his­tory. At least 100,000 peo­ple died, out of a pop­u­la­tion of per­haps six and a half mil­lion, and the dead in­cluded civil­ians who were caught up in sieges and mas­sacres. Ever since the mid-17th cen­tury, the wars have prompted pas­sion­ate de­bate and a wealth of pop­u­lar im­agery has grown up around the bat­tles and those who fought – the phrases ‘Round­heads and Cava­liers’ or ‘King ver­sus Par­lia­ment’ con­jure up pow­er­ful and evoca­tive pic­tures in our minds.

But al­though over the years his­to­ri­ans have de­scribed the wars, and their po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences, lit­tle is known about the or­di­nary peo­ple who fought. There were tens of thou­sands of sol­diers on both sides, many of them not the ro­man­tic cava­liers or crop-headed round­heads of pop­u­lar fic­tion, but mere labour­ers and crafts­men, foot sol­diers and gun­ners.

Now a fas­ci­nat­ing new re­source has been made avail­able for any­one re­search­ing of­fi­cers who fought on the side of Par­lia­ment. It’s the joint un­der­tak­ing of The Cromwell As­so­ci­a­tion and Bri­tish His­tory On­line, a dig­i­tal aca­demic li­brary hosted by the Univer­sity of Lon­don’s In­sti­tute of His­tor­i­cal Re­search. For some years, The Cromwell As­so­ci­a­tion has been work­ing to­wards the goal of a free on­line di­rec­tory of Par­lia­men­tar­ian army of­fi­cers. This re­search, which draws upon a wide range of sources, in­clud­ing sub­stan­tial new work in con­tem­po­rary ar­chives, has been very com­plex. Thanks to gen­er­ous grants from the Marc Fitch Foun­da­tion and the Aure­lius Trust, and sup­ported by The Cromwell As­so­ci­a­tion’s own funds, pro­fes­sional re­searchers have been em­ployed to un­der­take the task, led by the as­so­ci­a­tion’s vice pres­i­dent, Dr Stephen K Roberts of the His­tory of Par­lia­ment Trust.

The scope of the pro­ject is im­pres­sive, but in­evitably it can­not be de­fin­i­tive: much in­for­ma­tion is lost and the ar­mies were not well doc­u­mented, so the iden­ti­ties of many of those who bore arms will never be known. But it en­com­passes over 4,000 of­fi­cers of the main field ar­mies in Eng­land and Wales for the pe­riod 1642-1645, and in some cases be­yond that. Of­fi­cers in­clude those of the rank of cor­net or en­sign (the equiv­a­lent of a sub-lieu­tenant) and above. The names are ar­ranged al­pha­bet­i­cally, with as much bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tail as pos­si­ble.

The di­rec­tory will be wel­comed by a wide range of re­searchers, from mil­i­tary his­to­ri­ans of the pe­riod to those try­ing to trace in­di­vid­u­als and fam­i­lies. Nat­u­rally, I looked up my own sur­names – no Cros­bys to be found, but to my de­light there are Henry and Edward Bagshawe of Chape­len-le-Frith, Der­byshire, two dis­tant cousins of my 8x great grand­fa­ther. Edward was killed at the Bat­tle of Tut­bury in 1646!

Dr Stephen Roberts says this is the first at­tempt to bring in­for­ma­tion about var­i­ous par­lia­men­tary ar­mies to­gether in one place, so it al­lows users to get an over­all pic­ture that wasn’t pos­si­ble pre­vi­ously. The di­rec­tory is only a be­gin­ning be­cause “it would be pos­si­ble to find out much more about par­tic­u­lar in­di­vid­u­als, al­though it would re­quire painstak­ing re­search”. He added that the dig­i­tal for­mat “al­lows changes and devel­op­ment to take place much more eas­ily than a printed book for­mat”.

Of course, I asked if there were un­ex­pected findings? The an­swer is the fam­ily his­to­rian’s dream or night­mare: “It has been in­ter­est­ing to see how of­ten of­fi­cers moved from one army or unit to an­other, some­times mov­ing far from their own na­tive ar­eas.” We all know what that means in terms of brick walls!

At least 10,000 peo­ple died out of a pop­u­la­tion of per­haps six and a half mil­lion

Oliver Cromwell pic­tured at the Bat­tle of Marston Moor in July bat­tle was a ma­jor 1644. The de­feat for the Roy­al­ists, com­manded by Prince Ru­pert

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