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Teachers' Notes

Learning Resource created by The Cromwell Museum.


Who was Oliver Cromwell, and how did he end up becoming Lord Protector – the only commoner to have been head of state of Britain?

This resource explores the life of Cromwell, dispels the myths about him, and discusses his controversial and highly debated legacy. This resource can be used to support your classroom teaching about Cromwell, the British Civil Wars, and the Commonwealth, or used as an introduction before a visit to the Cromwell Museum, either in person or virtually.


Curriculum Links

  • KS3 History: Development of church, state, and society in Britain (1509 – 1745): the Interregnum, Cromwell in Ireland; understanding how different types of historical sources are used to make historical claims, and how and why contrasting arguments have been constructed
  • KS4 History: Thematic Early Modern British history


Learning Objectives

  • Knowledge of Oliver Cromwell, what he did in his life, and why he is so important.
  • Understanding of how and why Cromwell is a controversial figure.
  • Skills to analyse primary and secondary sources, and interpret the evidence we have to develop an opinion on Cromwell based on source material.

Discussion Ideas

  • There are transcriptions of three letters written by Cromwell at different points of his life included in this resource. 
    • Summarise what is being said in each letter.
    • Examine Cromwell’s letters. Think about:
      • What are the contexts of each of these letters?
      • Where is Cromwell and what is he doing when writing these letters?
      • What can these letters tell us about who Cromwell was as a person, as a military leader, and as Lord Protector?
      • There is a great emphasis on God in each of these letters.
        • What does each letter say about Cromwell’s religious beliefs and his relationship with God?
  • We do not have as much historical evidence for the early years of Cromwell’s life, compared to later in his life when he was a soldier and Lord Protector.
    • Why do you think that is?
    • What objects or documents from his early life would be helpful to find out more about him as a child and young adult?
  • As Lord Protector, was Cromwell ‘king in all but name’?
  • What is your opinion on Oliver Cromwell?
    • Support with evidence.
  • Cromwell sought to make Britain an important country again during his time in power.
    • Did he succeed?

Activity Ideas

  • Life of Oliver Cromwell: using the information and primary sources about Cromwell in this resource, write an obituary for Cromwell. Think about:
    • Who is the audience?
    • What are the main stages in his life?
    • What figures from his life would you interview to find out more, and what questions would you ask?
    • What other information might you need to tell the whole story, and how might you find this information?
    • What is your personal opinion of him, and what evidence do you have to support your opinion?
  • Make a timeline showing the important events of Cromwell’s life. Select images and objects from this resource or from the Museum’s website to represent the events.
  • Individually, or as a class, compile a list of statements about Cromwell, and decide whether each is a fact or an opinion. Then, have the students write 2 facts and 2 opinions of their own (either about Cromwell or another topic)
    Cromwell was born in Huntingdon (fact)
    Cromwell was a great man (opinion)
    Charles I had a sad life (opinion)
    Charles I was beheaded in 1649 (fact)