chapter  11
23 Pages

Elizabeth Cromwell and Mary Hays

WithAlan Marshall

In Female Biography, Mary Hays wrote of Elizabeth Cromwell that she was: possessed of an enlarged mind and elevated sprit. This chapter examines the historiographical landscapes and general understanding of the seventeenth century that provides an important background to Mary Hays's writing on Elizabeth Cromwell. It was a historiography that plainly informed Mary Hays's political/social theories, as well as her language, ideas and her historical reflections elsewhere, and it is something that is found particularly in this and in the other 'Cromwellian' biographies located within the volumes of the Female Biography. To the majority of the historians and biographers of the later eighteenth and early nineteenth century, Oliver Cromwell and his family were an uncertain quantity. To many of Hays's contemporaries they had become a moral lesson on the general evils of political ambition and a pointed warning of what could happen when fanatical religion broke into politics: civil war, destruction of property, regicide and despotism.