Charles: Political and Religious radicalism in the 1640's.

The Levellers:

Civil War and breakdown of royal authority and movement of armies of Parliament around the country created a development for religious and political radicalism.

  • The Levellers were a London Pressure Group that wanted economic, social and political reform.
  • Created by the civil war at a time of religious and politcal uncertainty.
  • John Lilburne was a key figure
  • The Levellers wanted:
    • Written constitution.
    • House of Commons being the main legislature, not the King or Lords.
    • More elections.
    • Religious freedom.
    • Refor of law and elected local governments.
  • This idea was ahead of it's time and like present day.
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The Levellers:


  • How they publicised their ideas helped their influence.
  • Used petitions, pamphlets and newspaper to convey it's messgaes.
  • Their methods show how the control of the Politcal Nation during this period declined.
  • Lilbrune made 250 Pamphlets from 1645-49.


  • Knew without army support, they couldn't influence the post-war settlement.
  • Levellers used the army's adjutators to express the concerns of the low army ranks.
  • Whilst the army leaders were talking to Charles over the Heads of Proposals, they were scared that their officers would sell them short.
  • Levellers saw Cromwell and Irenton as evil.
  • October 1647, new soldiers representatives had close links with Levellers and appeared in 5 regiments. 
  • Pamphlet, 'case of the army truly stated' attacked army leaders for attempt to compromise with Charles.
  • New Model Army begins to divide and leaders saw Levellers as a threat.
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The Levellers:


  • General Council of the Army met with adjutators and Leveller representatives to debate how England should be governed in the future. 

October 1647 The Levellers' first agreement of the people:

  • Levellers manifesto showed that those who wanted to be citizens of the state had to sign a document as their agreement.
    • Sovereignty = with the people, not King/Parliament by making Parliament more representative to the people.
    • Other agreements...
    • MPs elected according to proportion of constituencies.
    • Parliament elected every 2 years.
    • Parliament should only consist of the Commons.
  • Succeeded in reminding Ireton to keep their demands in mind when they deal with Parliament/King.
  • Army Leaders' need to work with Levellers and need to debate the settlement.
  • The fact that their voices were being heard when in 1630 they would be ignored showed how big the revolution was.
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The Levellers:

  • The Putney debate ended in November 1647 with a clash Ireton and Leveller sympathiser Rainsborough over the army leaders' attempts to settle with the King.
  • Everything at Putney was undermined when Charles escaped, uniting higher and lower rank officers after the Putney and Whitehall debates against the King and Scots.
  • Cromwell and Ireton reinforced their control over the army.
  • Payed the troops through Parliament.
  • This meant the Levellers couldn't have further discussions with the discontent ranks.
  • Some say army made Levellers keep quiet after the Whitehall debates until the army killed the King.


  • Behind the trial and execution of Charles, Levellers met the Gerneral council of the Army.
  • Met to debate the 'agreement of the people' as Whitehall.
  • Levellers wanted this to = framework to a new constitution.
  • Failure to agree led to a division between the Leveller leadership and army grandees.
  • After failing to agree, Levellers and officers made own versions of the 'agreement of people'.
  • Levellers second agreement was different from the officers' agreement.
  • After the King, the Army Grandees had to deal with the Leveller leadership.
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The Levellers:


  • March 1649, Leading Levellers like Lillburn were arrested.
  • Propaganda war still continued against the Rump Parliament and army.
  • Levellers attacked Cromwell as a hypocrite after the 'Hunting of the foxes'.
  • Levellers third agreement in 1649 wanted to caused an army mutiny.
  • Fairfax and Cromwell quickly crushed this in May 1649.
  • Rump parliament and army also put this to an end as rump Parliament still needed to pay army.
  • Lillburn was aquitted at his trial in September 1649.
  • After this the Leveller influence in the army was over.
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The Diggers:


  • Came about due to the political, scoial and economic effects of civil war.
  • Created by Gerrard Winstanley.
  • Mainly had an influence post-King's execution.


  • Communism was a solution to social inequality.
  • Came across more threatening than it was.
  • This = due to their challenge to nature of politics and society.
  • Unlike levellers they wanted total social and political equality.
  • Called themselves true levellers in their pamphlet ' True Levelles standard advanced'.
  • Pamphlet 'Law of freeedom in a platform' he said every man should have freedom on earth to make anything he wants and not pay rent to landlords.
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The Diggers:


  • Less immediate influence that the Levellers. 
  • Were a Minority and commune only lasted 1 year.
  • They weere destroyed by troops led by Fairfax due to the demands of the local elite.
  • Unlike Levellers, Diggers' was only controlled by Winstanley.
  • Despite failure, they had the ideas for future radicals such as...
    • Direct action - Winstanley said action is the only way to get something done.
    • Communism - Their making of communes show communism 200 years before Karl Marx.
    • Liberation theology - Their ideas go back to a radical Christian movement that aims to remove poverty.


  • March 1649, a Digger group led by William Everard took over waste ground at St George's Hill.
  • Took direct action of for their main idea of common ownership of land.
  • Said this was God's vision, more religious than the Levellers.
  • Failed because  hostile landowners.
  • After a year, the group at St George's Hill collapsed 
  • But, their were still short lived Digger communities in Kent, Nottinghamshire and Middlesex.
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The Milienarians:

  • A Purtian movement influenced by the Levellers and Diggers.
  • Saw the civil war as the end of times.
  • Saw judgement day as near due to the crises of King and Parliament.
  • Decided to have a more political role.


  • 1650, Welsh and London Millenarians linked to campaign for relgious, economic and social reform.
  • Called 5th Monarchist because of vision in the book of Daniel of a KIngdon lasting forever and would follow with 4 great earthly monarchs.
  • This group = loosely organised and there wasn't a millenarian cented political group.
  • They never had enough to threaten the state.
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The Milienarians:

  • Pre-1650, Millenarianism had an influence within the troops in the army.
  • Key Millenarian in the army and the development of the 5th Monarchists was Colonel Thomas Harrison. 
  • Central role in the 5th Monarchists group was from his position in the army and links with Millenarian preachers in South Wales and London. 
  • Harrsions' developing millenarianism saw him leading a consistent and coherent group of relgious and political Millenarianism.
  • They expected the coming of Christ on Earth and were theocratic.
  • Wanted God to be rule, saints having a divine right etc.


  • Levellers, Diggers and 5th Monarchists all failed to achieve their political, relgious and social reforms.
  • Diggers and Levellers were crushed by the New Model Army.
  • But in 1653, 5th monarchists came closest to poltical power through Thomas Harrsion.
  • But, the English Revolution led to these political movement influencing radicals in the future. 
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