Why and with what degree of success did Cromwell attempt to expand English interests in Ireland and the West Indies?

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Why, and with what degree of success, did Cromwell attempt to expand

English interests in Ireland the West Indies?

Oliver Cromwell was Lord Protector of the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland between the years 1653, until his death in 1658. A key theme of Oliver Cromwell's reign as Lord Protector was his aggressive foreign policy aims and goals. Cromwell attempted to expand English interests in both Ireland and in the West Indies. In 1649 Cromwell as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland led the parliamentarian conquest of Ireland between 1649 and 1651. Cromwell also ordered the naval expedition to the West Indies in late 1654. To truly assess the reasons why Cromwell attempted to expand English interests in both Ireland and in the West Indies it is important to examine the key themes of imperialism and religion, while also bearing in mind other factors such as security concerns and economic reasons. While Cromwell experienced success in Ireland to a large extent, the same cannot be said for the West Indies which has largely been seen as a failure.

Firstly it is important to assess the reasons for why Oliver Cromwell attempted to expand English interests in Ireland. Cromwell was appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1649 and led the New Model Army in the English Parliamentarian conquest of Ireland between 1649 and 1651. There has been much debate between historians as to what Cromwell's motives were in Ireland. Historian John Morrill states that Cromwell's principle objective was to eliminate the threat of military support for Charles II. It is clear that parliament and Cromwell held security concerns over the threat of the Old English who remained loyal to the monarchy and it was feared that Ireland could be used as a 'backdoor' to launch an invasion of England. Antonia Frasier argues that the Cromwellian conquest was religious as well as political. Fraser states that Cromwell was passionately opposed to the Catholic Church which he saw as 'denying the primacy of the Bible in favour of papal and clerical authority, and which he blamed for suspected tyranny and persecution of Protestants in Europe'. In addition to this historian Michael Mann states that the brutal manner in which Cromwell conquered Ireland held sentiments of revenge for the persecution of Protestants at the hands of Irish Catholics during the earlier rebellion of 1641.  It is fair to say that Cromwell was extremely motivated by religion and held hatred for the Catholic Irish. Cromwell himself stated that he would lead the good work against the Catholic 'barbarous and bloodthirsty Irish'. It is also important to bear in mind the role of Cromwell's colonial and imperialistic ambitions, Cromwell was eager to complete the plantation process of Ireland through decreasing Catholic land holding and increasing Protestant land holding, which can be seen through the Act of the Settlement of Ireland of 1652, in which land was confiscated from Catholics and given to Protestants. Therefore it is clear to see that Cromwell's main motives for expanding English interests in Ireland were a combination of security concerns over the threat of the Royalists, to increase the plantation and colonialisation of Ireland and finally religious motives, Cromwell clearly held a deep hatred for the Irish Catholics and was determined to gain revenge for the rebellion of 1641.

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Cromwell's conquest of Ireland was a success to a large extent. Cromwell had ruthlessly and effectively put down the Irish rebellion and completed his objective of eliminating the immediate Royalist threat in Ireland. Cromwell also imposed the Act for the Settlement of Ireland in 1652 on the Catholic Irish. As Cunningham effectively demonstrates the settlement punished the Catholic Irish especially those who had participated in the rebellion of 1641 through confiscation of land and other harsh penalties. This fulfilled Cromwell's desire to punish the Catholic Irish. The Act of the Settlement also furthered the plantation process, before the Act of ...

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