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Providence Lost


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The story of the rise and fall of Oliver Cromwell's Protectorate (1653-9), England's sole experiment in republican government - and one of the most extraordinary but neglected periods in British history.

About the Author

Paul Lay is editor of History Today. He sits on the advisory boards of the Institute of Historical Research and the History and Policy unit at KCL. His book, History Today and Tomorrow, will be published by Endeavour Press in Spring 2012.


'Briskly paced and elegantly written, Providence Lost provides us with a first-class ticket to this Cromwellian world of achievement, paradox and contradiction. Few guides take us so directly, or so sympathetically, into the imaginative worlds of that tumultuous decade' -- John Adamson, Sunday Times
'Providence Lost is a learned, lucid, wry and compelling narrative of the 1650s as well as a sensitive portrayal of a man unravelled by providence' -- Jessie Childs, Guardian
'In telling us what Cromwell believed, Lay helps us to understand the man, but his witty and incisive book is also a reminder why the English, in particular, hate the bossy pieties of the puritanical elite, and distrust radicalism' * The Times *
'Lay offers a vivid, clear and highly engrossing narrative of these fast moving and complicated events' * Financial Times *
'An enlightening study of the often overlooked rule of Oliver Cromwell' * Sunday Telegraph *
'A book for the general reader, based on a thorough knowledge of the sources, and written with perceptiveness as well as narrative zest - a lively, attention-holding account of what is surely the strangest decade in British history' * Sunday Telegraph *
'A superb summary of the ebbs and flows of the Interregnum, a strangely 'lost' decade' * Herald *
'[An] absorbing and beautifully written book' * BBC History Magazine *
'A readable and witty guide to England's republican interregnum' * The Times. *
'A highly readable book, full of wit, sober thought and scholarly rigour' * Observer. *
'A spirited and vivid survey of the brief period in which Cromwell held the dangerously ill-defined role of "lord protector"' * New Statesman *
'A history of Cromwell's republic that contends this was actually a period of intense creativity' * Sunday Times *
'Fascinating new history of the English interregnum' * Sunday Times *
'A compelling and exciting account of a critical period in early modern British history' * New Books Network *
'A brilliant aid to understanding modern Britain and, indirectly, the United States; the lessons of the Protectorate were not lost on the founding fathers' * Catholic Herald *
'Told in gripping fashion; each chapter is filled with enough intrigue to fuel a TV soap opera. The various warring factions are explained with vigour and clarity, while lesser-known events, such as a failed attempt to assassinate Cromwell, are packed with detail' * Discover Britain *
'Paul Lay is bracing and undeceived in his judgments ... Lay shows us what a distinctive period it was, full of frenetic excursions and alarms but for most people not unendurable, shallow-rooted in the good sense ... Lay treats each volcanic caprice of the Protector's with the amused scepticism it deserves, not struggling overmuch to discern some consistent purpose behind it' * London Review of Books *
'What Lay gives us is a warts-and-all picture of a man with the weaknesses of any other, and who struggled heroically to stabilise, and to attempt to unite, a country shattered by a decade of civil wars' * The Critic Magazine *
'Cromwell's republic was more energetic than we thought, reveals this brisk study' * Sunday Times *
'Fascinating' * The Times *
'Interesting material on the rule of Cromwell's major generals and on the debate on the succession to Cromwell and the falling out with John Lambert, who had been seen as Cromwell's deputy' * Chartist *

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