The son of a gentry family, he entered Cambridge in 1616 but probably left the next year. Cromwell entered Parliament in 1628, standing firmly with the opposition to Charles I, and was active in the Short and Long Parliaments (1640), although not a conspicuous leader. During the first civil war (see English civil war) he rose rapidly to leadership because of his military ability and his genius for organizing and inspiring the parliamentary armies. His own regiment, the Ironsides, distinguished itself at Marston Moor (1644) and in numerous minor engagements.
In 1644 he pressed for a thorough reorganization of the parliamentary forces and was appointed (1645) second in command to Sir Thomas Fairfax (later Baron Fairfax of Cameron) in the resulting New Model Army, which defeated the king at Naseby in 1645. In the quarrel between the army and Parliament following the first civil war, Cromwell supported the sectarians in the army and approved the seizure (1647) of Charles from Parliament. However, he favored a moderate settlement with the king (as opposed to the radical proposals of the Levelers) until Charles's flight to Carisbrooke (1647) and secret dealings with the Scots caused him to lose all hope of further negotiations with the king.
In the second civil war he repelled the Scottish royalist invasion at Preston (1648). His political power was enhanced by the removal of Presbyterian leaders from Parliament in Pride's Purge (see under Pride, Thomas), and at the king's trial (1649) his was the leading voice demanding execution.
In 1649, after the proclamation of the republican Commonwealth, Cromwell led a punitive expedition into Ireland, especially remembered for the massacre of the royalist garrison at Drogheda. He then initiated a policy of systematic dispossession of the Irish, transferring their lands to Protestant proprietors. In 1650 he invaded Scotland and routed the Scottish royalists at Dunbar; later he defeated the Scots and Charles II himself at Worcester (1651) and left the rest of the conquest of Scotland to Gen. George Monck.
Cromwell, now virtual dictator of the Commonwealth, dissolved the Rump Parliament in 1653 after it had failed to effect reforms demanded by the army and had sought to perpetuate its power. His attempt to replace it by the Nominated (Barebone's) Parliament (see Barebone, Praise-God), appointed by himself from nominations of the Independent congregations, resulted in a reckless, hopelessly divided body that was finally forced to dissolve itself. A group of army officers then drew up the constitutional document known as the Instrument of Government (1653), by which Cromwell became lord protector (see Protectorate). The Parliament of 1654, which was elected under the terms of the same document, wanted to prepare a new constitution and was soon dissolved.
After that Cromwell resorted to open military government, dividing England into 11 districts, each administered by a major-general. Another, more amenable Parliament was summoned in 1656, and in 1657 it presented to Cromwell a new constitution known as the Humble Petition and Advice and offered him the crown. He declined the crown but accepted (with some modifications) the Humble Petition, which further increased his power and set up a second legislative chamber. The second session of this same Parliament, however, challenged the new constitution, and Cromwell dissolved it (1658) seven months before his death.
Cromwell's foreign policy was governed by the need to expand English trade and prevent the restoration of the Stuarts, and by the desire to build up a Protestant league and enhance the prestige of the English republic. He approved the Navigation Act of 1651, which led to the first (1652-54) of the Dutch Wars, and he pressed the war against Spain (1655-58) as a means of encroaching on Spanish rights of colonization in America. The Dutch war resulted in several important naval victories for the English under Admiral Robert Blake, but the Spanish war, apart from the sinking of a Spanish fleet (also by Blake), brought only Jamaica and imposed a great strain on English finances.
Opinions of Cromwell have always varied widely. His military skill and force of character are universally recognized. He met the task of holding together the gains of the civil wars and the discordant groups in the Puritan party in what seemed the only practical way. This involved force and intolerance, which were evidently alien to him personally, for he professed love for both toleration and constitutional government. Only Jews and non-Anglican Protestants (excepting Quakers) were tolerated during his rule, however, and he found it impossible to cooperate with Parliament in governing. His government, dependent on his own strong character, costly in its foreign policy, and representing a break in English institutions and a minority religious viewpoint, could not survive him long, and he was succeeded briefly as protector by his son Richard.
See the writings and speeches of Oliver Cromwell (ed. by W. C. Abbott et al., 4 vol., 1937-47); biographies by M. P. Ashley (1969), J. E. C. Hill (1970), C. V. Wedgwood (rev. ed. 1973), and A. Fraser (1973); M. P. Ashley, The Greatness of Oliver Cromwell (1957, repr. 1966); writings on the period by S. R. Gardiner and Sir Charles Firth.
See M. T. Williams, King Oliver (1961), and G. Schuller, Early Jazz (1968).
See biography by W. G. Brown (1905).
See biography by J. A. James (1937, repr. 1970).
See his autobiographical Raw Material (1945); biographies by E. Gillis (1967), D. McNickle (1971), and T. M. Pearce (1972).
See his Platoon and Salvador: The Screenplays (1987) and his autobiographical novel A Child's Night Dream (written 1966, pub. 1997); N. Kagan, The Cinema of Oliver Stone (1995); D. Kunz, ed., The Films of Oliver Stone (1997); C. Salewicz, Oliver Stone, Close Up (1998).
See biography by R. M. Wardle (1957, repr. 1969); R. Quintana (1967), R. H. Hopkins (1969), R. L. Harp (1976), and J. Giner (1978).
It premiered in the West End in 1960, enjoying a long run, a successful Broadway production in 1964 and further tours and revivals. It was made into a musical film in 1968. A new London production is scheduled to begin previews in December 2008.
The show launched the careers of several child actors, including Davy Jones, later of The Monkees; Phil Collins, later of Genesis; and Tony Robinson, who later played the role of Baldrick in the television series Black Adder. The singer Steve Marriott (Small Faces, Humble Pie) also featured in early line-ups, eventually graduating to the role of Artful Dodger in the West End production.
The plot of Dickens's original novel is considerably simplified for the purposes of the musical, with Fagin being represented more as a comic character than as a villain, and large portions of the latter part of the story being completely left out. Although Dickens' novel has been called antisemitic in its portrayal of the Jew Fagin as evil, the production by Bart (himself a Jew) was more sympathetic and featured many Jewish actors in leading roles: Ron Moody (Ronald Moodnik), Georgia Brown (Lilian Klot), and Martin Horsey.
The musical opens in the workhouse, as the half-starved orphan boys are entering the enormous lunchroom for dinner ("Food Glorious Food"). They are fed only gruel. Nine year old Oliver Twist (actually identified as thirteen in the libretto but generally played as much younger) gathers up the courage to ask for more. He is immediately apprehended and is told to gather his belongings by Mr Bumble and the Widow Corney, the heartless and greedy caretakers of the workhouse ("Oliver!"). Mr Bumble and Widow Corney start flirting during conversation. Mr Bumble goes too far in "I Shall Scream!". At the end, Widow Corney ends up on Mr Bumble's lap, kissing him. Oliver comes back and is promptly sold ("Boy for Sale") and apprenticed to an undertaker, Mr. Sowerberry. He and his wife taunt Oliver with the song "That's Your Funeral". He is sent to sleep in the basement with the coffins, something which makes him visibly uncomfortable. ("Where is Love?").
The next morning bully Noah Claypole, who oversees Oliver's work, badmouths Oliver's dead mother, whereupon Oliver begins pummeling him. Mrs Sowerberry and her daughter, Charlotte run in, and become hysterical. They then lock Oliver in a coffin. Mr. Bumble is sent for, and he and the Sowerberrys lock Oliver in a coffin, but during all the commotion Oliver escapes. After a week on the run, he meets the Artful Dodger, a boy wearing an oversize coat and a top hat. He beckons Oliver to join him with "Consider Yourself". Dodger is, unknown to Oliver, a boy pickpocket, and he invites Oliver to come and live in Fagin's lair. Fagin is a criminal, and he is in the business of teaching young boys to pick pockets. Oliver, however, is completely unaware of any criminality, and believes that the boys make handkerchiefs rather than steal them. Oliver is introduced to Fagin and all the other boy pickpockets, and is taught their ways in "You've got to Pick a Pocket or Two".
The next day, Oliver meets Nancy, the live-in girlfriend of the evil, terrifying Bill Sikes, a burglar whose abuse she endures because she loves him. Nancy and Oliver take an instant liking to each other, and Nancy shows motherly affection toward him. Bet, Nancy's younger sister (merely her best friend in the 1968 film and in Dickens' novel), is also with her. Nancy, along with Bet and the boys, sing about how they don't mind a bit of danger in "It's a Fine Life". Dodger humorously starts pretending to be an upper-class citizen, ("I'd Do Anything"), along with Fagin, Oliver, Nancy, Bet, and the boys mocking high society. Nancy and Bet leave and Oliver is sent out with the other boys on his first pickpocketing job ("Be Back Soon"), though he still believes that they are going to teach him how to make handkerchiefs. The Dodger, another boy pickpocket named Charley Bates, and Oliver decide to stick together, and when Dodger and Charley rob Mr. Brownlow, a wealthy old man, they run off, leaving the shocked Oliver, who now realizes that his new friends are pickpockets, to be blamed for looking guilty. Brownlow thinks that Oliver is the thief, but Oliver is cleared in court (offstage).
To make up for his error, the wealthy Brownlow has taken Oliver to live with him, noticing something vaguely familiar about him. In the evening the bar is full of people having a good time and Nancy is called upon to sing an old tavern song ("Oom Pah Pah"). Bill Sykes enters and sings ("My Name"), and gets the crowd to leave. Dodger runs in and tells Fagin about Oliver being captured. Fagin and Bill decide that they have to kidnap Oliver to keep him from revealing their whereabouts and secrets. Nancy is asked to participate, but feeling sorry for the boy and wishing him to have a better life if he has the chance - refuses, until Bill slaps her around. She tries to convince herself that he really loves her and expresses her need for him with the co-dependent anthem, "As Long As He Needs Me".
Meanwhile the next morning, at Mr. Brownlow's house, Ms. Bedwin, the housekeeper, sings Oliver a reprise of "Where is Love?" and as he wakes up they take notice of the street vendors outside in the song "Who Will Buy?". Mr. Brownlow and Dr. Grimwig discuss Oliver's condition. They come to the conclusion that he is fine and that he can return some books to the bookseller for Mr. Brownlow. The Vendors continue to sing ("Who Will Buy") and at the very end, Nancy and Bill show up and grab Oliver. They bring him back to Fagin's, where Nancy saves Oliver from a beating from Sykes after the boy tries to flee but is stopped. Nancy angrily and remorsefully reviews what their "Fine Life" has come to in "It's A Fine Life (reprise)". When Sykes and Nancy leave, Fagin ponders his future in the humorous song "Reviewing the Situation", in which, every time he thinks of a good reason for going straight, he reconsiders and decides to remain a criminal.
Back at the workhouse, Mr. Bumble and the Widow Corney, now unhappily married, meet up with the dying pauper Old Sally and another old lady, who tell them of how Oliver's mother came to the workhouse to have her baby and gave her a gold locket after the birth, implying that she came from a rich family. The mother then died. Mr Bumble and Widow Corney, realizing that Oliver may have wealthy relatives, visit Mr. Brownlow in order to profit from any reward given out for information of him ("Oliver! (reprise)"). He throws them out, knowing that they have suppressed evidence until they could get a reward for it. Brownlow looks at the picture inside the locket, a picture of his daughter, and realizes that Oliver, who knows nothing of his family history, is actually his grandson. (Oliver's mother had disappeared after having been left pregnant by her lover, who jilted her.)
Nancy, terrified for Oliver and feeling guilty, visits Brownlow and promises to deliver Oliver to him safely that night at midnight on London Bridge - if Brownlow does not bring the police or ask any questions. She then ponders again about Bill in "As Long As He Needs Me (reprise)". Bill suspects that Nancy is up to something. That night, he follows her as she sneaks Oliver out, although in the stage version it is never made clear how he knew exactly when to do this. At London Bridge, he confronts them, knocks Oliver temporarily unconscious, and brutally clubs Nancy to death (in some stagings of the show, he strangles her, stabs her, or slits her throat, but the musical's original libretto follows Dickens's original novel in having her beaten to death). He then grabs Oliver, who has since revived, and runs offstage with him, presumably back to the hideout to ask Fagin for getaway money. Mr. Brownlow, who had been late keeping the appointment, arrives and discovers Nancy's body. A large crowd soon forms, among them the distraught Bet. Bullseye, Bill's fierce terrier, returns to the scene of the crime and the crowd prepares to follow him to the hideout. After they exit Fagin and his boys, terrified at the idea of being apprehended, leave their hideout in panic. Not finding Bill at the hideout, the anxious crowd, now whipped up into a thirst for justice, returns to the Thames Embankment, when suddenly Bill appears at the top of the bridge, holding Oliver as hostage and threatening to kill him if the crowd tries to take him. Unseen by Bill, two policemen sneak up on him. One of them shoots Bill to death and the other grabs Oliver as Bill releases him. Oliver is then reunited with Mr. Brownlow.
After the crowd disperses, Fagin re-enters, making sure not to be seen by anyone, and sings a reprise of "Reviewing the Situation". All of the cast re-enter for curtain calls, singing a medley of "Food Glorious Food" and "Consider Yourself", and then the fourth wall of drama is broken, as the actors respectively playing the supposed-to-be dead Nancy and Sykes re-enter very much alive, and Oliver, joined by the rest of the cast, once more sings to Nancy "I'd Do Anything".
A 1965 revival at the Martin Beck Theatre ran for 64 performances, and featured Robin Ramsay and Maura K. Wedge with direction bt Peter Coe.
1983 saw a new production of Oliver as the first musical produced by the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, as part of its inaugural season as a self-producing theatre.
In 1984 there was a short lived Broadway revival of 17 performances and 13 previews with Ron Moody reprising his West End and film role as Fagin and Patti LuPone as Nancy, with direction again by Peter Coe.
A new North American tour is set to open in September 2008 and tour the country until March 2009.