Interesting article about an article. I’m glad to read this; I’ve always felt that Cromwell’s crimes in Ireland were somewhat exaggerated:

Between 1652 and 1654, the high court of justice in Ireland presided over nearly 129 recorded trials. Interestingly, 41 per cent of individuals tried were pardoned.

It seems that the court was not a retributive measure, but instead proved essential to ensuring the success of Cromwell’s regime in Ireland. Cromwell seems to have embraced both long-standing domestic traditions and emerging international legal principles to create a judicial system which was not dissimilar to modern criminal tribunals, Wells notes.

Moving away from a black-or-white portrayal of Cromwell as saviour or slaughterer, Wells’ argument is cleverly nuanced. She suggests that the distinctive circumstances in Ireland in the 1650s meant that English parliamentarians used law as a means to move away from violence. In doing so, the new regime became legitimised, enhancing English power in Ireland.

It is this clever combination of at once being rooted in the English past and being flexible enough to use multiple legal traditions which was exported throughout the later British Empire. Wells has clearly shown that Ireland served as the testing grounds for a style of governance which would be imposed around the world.