"Trust in God but keep your powder dry"
1. Politics - as a minor member of the landed gentry, Cromwell went into politics early and started out as an inexperienced MP for Cambridgeshire. He positioned himself as a power broker by the outbreak of war and played a decisive role in the revolution that saw King Charles I tried and executed.
2. Religion - Cromwell was a devout Puritan Protestant. The need for 'Godly Reformation' would prove to be a powerful driving force for much of his career in politics and the military.
3. Civil war - with the breakdown in relations between the Monarchy and Parliament, both sides readied their forces. Despite having not had a military career, Cromwell proved an adept and excellent military leader. He won a series of victories and quickly attained the rank of Colonel. By the wars end he would serve as second in command of all Parliamentarian forces.
4. Protectorate - after Parliament's victory in the civil war, the protectorate was established as a single ruling authority over England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. Oliver Cromwell became its Lord Protector for life. With his power base as the army this essentially meant that despite having a plutocratic parliament, Cromwell was its military dictator.
5. Ireland - in recent years Cromwell has become the subject of many revisionist arguments that claim he should be classed as a war criminal. While in Ireland, Cromwell ordered the slaughter of Irish soldiers at two garrisons. Around 6000 soldiers and civilians were murdered and it is strongly suspected that this was an out and out act of sectarianism in response to an earlier massacre of Protestant settlers by Catholics in Ireland. Cromwell also oversaw the forced migration of Catholics to the West of the Shannon river with the phrase "to hell or Connaught" being used by both sides at the time. With the threat of a prolonged Guerilla war looming , Cromwell ordered that crops and livestock be destroyed. Famine followed and the population of Ireland dropped by around one fifth. It is frequently argued that Cromwell was a man of his day as this is how 17th century warfare was conducted. While this is true, it was also a ruthless act by any standards and one that the Irish have not soon forgotten.