Review: Providence Lost, Paul Lay

Rating: 4 out of 5

I kind of stumbled into this post-Civil War military & political history, or, at least, it wasn’t my intention to delve into this period at this time. Yet, I found Mr Lay’s account of the Protectorate strangely enthralling. I was most captivated by the Western Design, the name given to the English plan to capture Hispaniola, but the the entire myriad of problems that the Lord Protector faced make for a very thrilling story.

Mr Lay’s account, nevertheless, is a starting point for one’s exploration. Lambert and Cromwell are the major characters, though many of the other people are mentioned, mostly in connection with the trial of James Nayler and the Western Design. The 17th century concept of Providence is considered in great detail, while Irish and Scottish internal politics, including Monck before his march on London, barely feature.

Having always considered the Protectorate… well… really not having thought much about the Protectorate beforehand, I became intrigued by these persons. Thurloe was another who featured often enough in interesting situations, being, perhaps after Walsingham, the most successful spymaster in pre-modern England.

This book is a gate. I’m sure Mr Lay’s scholarship has some holes, but I don’t know enough about them to know where they were. It’s still a very good work which, most importantly, tries to introduce the reader to a time that has now passed.

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