Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) ruled Britian as Lord Protector during the Reformation. He remains one of the most enigmatic figures in the English history.

Born in Huntingdon to the landed gentry and educated at Cambridge Cromwell remained an obscure land baron until English Civil War of the 1640's. With the outbreak of war in 1642, Captain Cromwell quickly advanced up the ranks of the Parliamentary Army with victories throughout Northern England that put it securely in the hand of Parliamentarians. By the end of 1643 Cromwell held the rank of Lt. General and field commanded Parliament's most effective army. The Parliamentary Army eventually won the civil war and executed the King Charles I.

Cromwell led successful and brutal military campaigns to establish English control over Ireland (1649-50) and then Scotland (1650-51). In summer 1650, before embarking for Scotland, Cromwell had been appointed Lord General - that is, commander in chief - of all the parliamentary forces. A remarkable achievement for a man who had no military experience before 1642.

Cromwell's military standing gave him enhanced political power, just as his military victories gave him the confidence and motivation to intervene in and to shape political events. An inexperienced member of Parliament for Cambridge in 1640, by the late 1640s he was one of the institutions power-brokers. He played a decisive role in the 'revolution' of winter 1648-9. As head of the army, he intervened several times to support or remove the republican regimes of the early 1650s.

In December 1653, he became head of state as Lord Protector, though he held that office under a written constitution which ensured that he would share political power with parliaments and a council. As Lord Protector for almost five years he ruled Britain until his death on September 3, 1658

Cromwell waged war ruthlessly. When peace came to Britian in the late 1640's, his post revolution government was fairly enlightened in that it did not conduct bloodthirsty purges of the remaining Monarchists. However, England quickly tired of the harsh discipline of the roundheads who closed the theaters and outlawed public dancing.

Within a year of Cromwell's death the English restored a monarch (Charles II) to the head of state over Cromwell's successor and son Richard.