God’s Executioner: Oliver Cromwell and the Conquest of Ireland

Written by Micheál Ó Siochrú
Review by Mike Ashworth

God’s Executioner opens in October 1649 with the seizing of the Charlemont fort in County Armagh and continues through to a conclusion in 1689 and William of Orange. Politics, military conquest and religion are inextricably linked in this period of Irish history, with Protestant leaders fighting to maintain the status quo which entrenched their status and supremacy while Catholic leaders struggled to change the restrictive laws and covenants which had such negative impact on their lives. Mixed in the pot was the Protestant hatred of the Catholic religion and a civil war between King and Parliament.

The detailed research carried out makes this an excellent history of the period. Well balanced, it looks at actions taken by both sides in the war while the massacres at Drogheda and Wexford by Parliamentary forces under Cromwell’s command are detailed, they are shown in the context of bloody actions taken by both Catholic and Protestant forces throughout the era. For students of the history of Ireland at this period this will be an excellent resource. However, Cromwell’s character is hardly covered, and I am still no wiser about the man and his motivation. With only some 73 pages out of 250 devoted to him I feel that the title of the book, while thought provoking, is not completely apt. Nevertheless, a well researched book.