Historian Explores Accounts of Supernatural in Civil War

Professor Darren Oldridge

People can learn more about such how such reported events were depicted and interpreted during the conflict, which took place between 1642 and 1651, from Professor of Early Modern History, Darren Oldridge.

He will be delivering two talks at The Commandery, in Worcester. The first of these, titled ‘Oliver Cromwell and the Devil’, is one in a series organised by the Battle of Worcester Society and takes place at 7pm on Thursday, May 25.

The second, called ‘Armies in the Sky: Visions and Wonders in the English Civil War’, is about the apparitions and miraculous events reported during the conflict and will be given on Saturday May 27 at 2pm.

“In some ways the English Civil War seems very modern,” said Professor Oldridge. “It was fought over political principles that are relevant today, and ended in a revolution that transformed the British state. But it was also fought by people who believed in magic, feared evil spirits, looked for visions in the sky, and expected the imminent end of the world. My talks will explore these aspects of the conflict.”

In his first talk, Professor Oldridge will explore Oliver Cromwell’s alleged meeting with the Devil before the Battle of Worcester in 1651. After Cromwell’s death in 1658, it was reported in printed accounts that he had sold his soul to the Devil before the Battle of Worcester exactly seven years earlier. The story goes that the Devil claimed his prize at the Protector’s deathbed on the anniversary of the battle, during an earth-shaking storm. Professor Oldridge will trace the development of this legend and relate it to ideas about evil spirits in the period.

As well as tales of the Devil, Professor Oldridge says the English Civil War produced visions in the sky, sightings of ghosts, and “wonderful” events of all kinds, which he will explore in his second talk. This is the latest in a series of presentations based on books printed in the 1600s. In it Professor Oldridge will give examples of these signs and wonders from the period, taken from early printed books that the audience can hold and read for themselves.

“Besieged populations were saved by supposedly supernatural interventions; bibles were miraculously preserved; and the recently dead returned in dreadful apparitions. Both sides looked to such happenings for signs of divine favour,” he said. “Writings from this period show that the Civil War was a haunted conflict as well as a bloody one.”

For tickets visit The Commandery website for the talk of 'Oliver Cromwell and the Devil' and for the talk on 'Armies in the Sky: Visions and Wonders in the English Civil War'.