28 June 2018
On Wednesday 27 June the Lower Sixth historians attended the Cromwell Association’s conference, Britain in the 1640s. Over the years this has grown from a day for history teachers into a large conference for sixth-formers, led by four famous historians. An historian’s vital task is to make judgments between historical arguments. Three topics were debated which we may loosely paraphrase as “Did Parliament win or did the Royalists lose?”, “When did the execution of the king become likely?” and “Is it better to talk of a national civil war or a range of local conflicts?” Professor Jason Peacey from UCL, Professor Peter Gaunt from Chester, Dr Joan Redmond from KCL and our good friend Dr David Smith from Cambridge took turns to present contrasting arguments. After lunching in St Paul’s spectacular new refectory we returned for a workshop, coming face to face with seventeenth century documents. Dr Redmond led us through the intricacies of two famous passages from Ireland: a Protestant account of a Catholic massacre in Ulster in 1641 and Cromwell’s letter to the Speaker in London after the bloodshed of the siege of Drogheda. Four centuries on, these still cause passions to rise and historians’ opinions to diverge. It was a very valuable day both for the content and for the methodology involved. Our thanks go out to the Association for this important initiative.