Radical Poltical Ideas (Levellers and Diggers)

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  • Created on: 27-04-20 16:48
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  • Radical political ideas (Levellers and Diggers)
    • The Levellers
      • Mainly based in London.
      • Pressure gorup that sought political, economic and social reform.
      • Thet developed as a result of the economic distress caused by the civil awr.
      • The Levellers attacked kingly authority and kingship from the beginning of the movement in 1646.
      • The movement had little time for Charles I and wanted to replace kingship with a government dominated by a representative of the people.
      • Leading figure was John Lilburne
      • The Failure of the Levellers
        • If the Levellers were to stand any chance of success they woud need more support in the New Model Army.
          • As divisions threatend the army, it held the Putney Debates in October 1647.
            • Discussed with the Levellers their written consttution, the Agreement of the People, and particularity their ideas on the extention of the franchise.
        • The short-term pragmatic alliance between the Levellers and the army leadership collapsed before the regicide.
          • March 1649, the leading Levellers, including Lilburne, were arrested.
            • However, the Levellers continued their propaganda war against the Rump and the army.
              • A pamphlet was released in 1649 and Cromwell was attacked in particular.
              • The Levellers' Third Agreement was an attempt to inspire army mutiny.
                • It was quickly crushed by Cromwell in 1649.
        • It wasn't only the determination of the Rump and the army leadership to stop the Levellers that limited the movement, but also that the Rump had money to pay the army.
          • This prevented unrest among the troops and limited Leveller inflence and the threat they posed.
        • The failure of the Levellers was also rooted in their alienation of those towards the bottom of society though:
          • -Social reforms being too limited
          • -Economic reforms being too limited
          • -Those without property not being included in plans for extension of the franchise.
    • The Diggers
      • The Diggers were a reaction to the major political change of the years 1647-49.
        • Came about as Parliament struggled without success to negotiate a peaceful settlement with Charles I.
        • Grew in importance after the King's execution in 1649.
      • Led by Gerard Winstanley.
      • Established a community outside London as a proposed solution to social inequalities.
        • The ideas and actions of the Diggers offered a fundamental challenge to the nature of politics and society at the time, but their influence was limited.
      • Unlike the Levellers, the Diggers believed in total social and poilitical equality.
        • Refered to themseleves as the 'True Levellers'.
      • The Failure of the Diggers
        • The ultimate failure of the Diggers was due to the hostility of those who owned the land around their community at St George's Hill.
          • After a year of continued hostility the Digger community collapsed.
        • Other Digger communities had been set up throughout England, but none of them survived.
          • Eg, Northhamponshire, Middlesex, Bedfordshire, ect.
          • Despire their immediate failure, the significance of the Diggers was the oath they laid for future radicals, based on the following central ideas:
            • Direct Action
              • Diggers provided an example of taking action in politics rather than just relying on their ideas.
            • Communism
              • In their communes, they provided an example of communism in action.
            • Liberation Theology
              • The ideas of the Diggers pre-figured radical Christian movements such as those in Latin America in the 1950-60's.
                • This movement aimed to liberate people from poverty and injustice.
            • Environmentalists
              • By living off nature in their communes, the Diggers can be been as prefiguring the environmental movement.


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