The inevitable email on Cromwell: “[Derb] seems to forget Cromwell’s vicious genocidal campaign against the Irish. That can’t be forgiven, excused, or understood.”
[Derb] It most certainly can be. The Irish were in rebellion, wild bands of marauders roaming the land, pillaging, raping, and committing acts of mass murder. Cromwell put down the rebellion, as any 17th-century ruler would. A good deal more gently than most would, in fact.
Small, poor countries are the geostrategic playthings of big, rich ones. Their independence is always precarious and provisional. So it has always been. Ireland was a plum to be picked, and it was the business of England’s rulers to see that it was not picked by England’s enemies. They did their duty to their people, and would have been criminally negligent if they had not.
This all remained true into modern times: If Hitler had landed troops in Ireland in WW2, then Ireland’s “independence” would have come to an abrupt end–Churchill made that clear to the Irish. To pretend that 17th-century Ireland could have enjoyed anything like the modern notion of independence is preposterous. An English ruler who had allowed that to happen would have committed treason against England.
Irish nationalists like to wail about how the Battle of Kinsale was the last gasp of old Gaelic Ireland. Possibly it was; but the troops Mountjoy faced at Kinsale were not Irishmen, but Spaniards.