Friday, 22 April 2011

Gerrard Winstanley: A Common Treasury-Presented by Tony Benn-Verso 2011


The recent publication of the book Gerrard Winstanley : A Common Treasury has added to what seems to be increasing interest in the life and writings of Gerrard Winstanley. The publication of his complete works by Oxford University Press is perhaps the high point of this interest. The purpose of this review is to evaluate the Verso published book and find Winstanley’s place in history.

Not all have welcomed the attention given to Winstanley. Revisionists according to Michael Braddick “have tried to cut the English revolution down to size or to cast it in its own terms. In so doing, they naturally also cast a critical eye over the reputation and contemporary significance of its radical heroes.

To Mark Kishlansky Winstanley was “a small businessman who began his career wholesaling cloth, ended it wholesaling grain, and in between sandwiched a mid-life crisis of epic proportions”. For revisionists, the years when the world was turned upside down stand in the same relation to the course of English history as Winstanley’s wild years either side of his fortieth birthday do to his subsequent life as a churchwarden”.

In answer to the revisionists it is not the point to talk up or talk down Winstanley and the Diggers but to place them in the proper context of the English Revolution. It is true that Winstanley was a businessman and that his radicalism coincided with one of the most revolutionary chapters in English history but that merely points out that at certain times men and women are moved by such profound events such as wars and revolution and that their thoughts during peaceful times sometimes move at glacial speed and during revolutions they speed up dramatically.

Previous work on Winstanley

The Verso book while leaving out significant works of Winstanley does give the reader a clear picture of how Winstanley interpreted the events of the Civil War and how he was profoundly moved by them. For well over two hundred after his death Winstanley was largely an obscure figure in fact the first of Winstanley’s writings to be reprinted after his death was A Letter to the Lord Fairfax (June 1649), according to one writer it was “not until the 1930s were other writings by or attributed to Winstanley reissued when extracts from The True Levellers Standard Advanced (April 1649) appeared in A. S. P. Woodhouse’s collection of contemporary texts Puritanism and Liberty.

It is clear from reading the Verso book that Winstanley’s writings were not merely an exercise in mental activity. Most of the writings, which were written like a manifesto to justify his pursuit of an ideal society where England was a “common treasury” for all. In order to carry out this pursuit Winstanley and his followers decided to put theory into practice.

On Sunday 1 or Sunday 8 April 1649 the precise date has not been confirmed but it is known five people travelled to St. George’s Hill in the parish of Walton-on-Thames, Surrey. Once there they began digging the earth and planting vegetables such as with parsnips, carrots and beans. Sleeping under the stars they were followed the next day by more people. At the end of the week around thirty people were digging the earth.

From a 21st century standpoint this does not amount to a hill of beans if you pardon the pun. But from a 17th century standpoint given the explosive nature of a civil war and revolution it caused a significant stir and Winstanley’s action also caused a swift and brutal response from locals threatened by the action and from the authorities who saw it as a challenge to their rule.

The New Law of Righteousness

Perhaps Winstanley’s most famous body of work is not in the Verso collection which is a strange absence. In this small book he agitated for a form of Christian Communism. Verses 44 and 45 outline his basic core in the Book of Acts, he said "All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need." Winstanley argued that "in the beginning of time God made the earth. Not one word was spoken at the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another, but selfish imaginations did set up one man to teach and rule over another."

It is quite correct to trace Winstanley’s radical thought in The New Law of Righteousness back through time. Certainly it echoed profoundly with Wat Tyler and the Peasants' Revolt (1381). While much of Winstanley and that of the Diggers thought was couched in religious terms he was clearly advocating a primitive form of Communism.

His avocation of the redistribution of land through the pamphlet called The Law of Freedom in a Platform which again has been passed over by Verso saw him elaborate a Christian/Communist basis for society in which property and wages were abolished. From A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England he said "The power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land".

In The Law of Freedom you can see that Winstanley was heavily influenced by the European Anabaptists. Who believed that all institutions were by their nature corrupt: "nature tells us that if water stands long it corrupts; whereas running water keeps sweet and is fit for common use". Winstanley in order to combat this corrupting nature called for all officials should be elected every year. "When public officers remain long in place of judicature they will degenerate from the bounds of humility, honesty and tender care of brethren, in regard the heart of man is so subject to be overspread with the clouds of covetousness, pride, vain glory.

"The Diggers further outlined their aims in a pamphlet, True Levellers Standard Advanced, In this document Winstanley argued that the Digger communes were only the first part of a programme that would see people refuse to ‘work’ for the rich. The Land would be ‘a common treasury for all'. No one would either give for hire or take for hire. Nor was anyone to pay rent. The old society, dominated by 'the landlords, teachers and rulers (who) are oppressors, murderers and thieves'. The SWP (Socialist Workers Party) and a number of other radical organisations have tended to equate this type of action with a 20th century proletariat withdrawing its labour from the capitalist class in a sort of general strike. While communistic in its approach it must be said we are talking about a working class that’s in embryonic form not an industrial proletariat led by a communist party.

Foreword

Tom Hazledine makes a very point in the foreword to this book when he says that very few members of the ruling elite who started the war and revolution against the king would have predicted that they would very soon lose control of the revolution and in fact the revolution’s leadership would be found in the new model army under the leadership of Cromwell but in the realms of theory it was very much influenced by the writings of religious sects such as the Levellers , Diggers etc.

To say that Winstanley and his writings were a product of the times is an understatement. As Hazledine says he exploded onto the scene. Gerrard Winstanley was born 1609 and died 10 September 1676. Much of his early life remains a mystery. He was the son of an Edward Winstanley. In 1630 he moved to London and took up an apprenticeship and in 1638, he was a freeman of the Merchant Tailors' Company.

His adult life is unremarkable he married Susan King, who was the daughter of London surgeon William King, in 1639. It is clear that without the English Civil War, his life would have moved at the same pedestrian pace as before. But like many his world was turned upside down. His business took a beating during the early part of the war and in 1643 he was made bankrupt. He moved to Cobham, Surrey, where he found menial work as a cowherd.

In work that is not strangely in the Verso book In his work "The Law of Freedom the True Leveller" Winstanley again makes clear the conditions in which a really free society is possible:

"The storehouses shall be every Man's substance and not any one's… He or she who calls the earth his and not his brother's shall be sat upon a stool with those words written on his forehead before all the congregation, and afterwards be made a servant for twelve months under the taskmaster. If he quarrel or seek by secret persuasion or open rising to set up such a kingly property he shall be put to death."

The next point made by Winstanley is that of the expectation of not only his followers but along with other radical sects that they fought a civil war in order to have a better society yet this has not happened under Cromwell and his allies in parliament.

“O thou Powers of England, though thou hast promised to make this People a Free People, yet thou hast so handled the matter, through thy self-seeking humour, That thou has wrapped us up more in bondage, and oppression lies heavier upon us; not only bringing thy fellow Creatures, the Commoners, to a morsel of Bread, but by confounding all sorts of people by thy Government, of doing and undoing. First, Thou hast made the people to take a Covenant and Oaths to endeavour a Reformation, and to bring in Liberty every man in his place; and yet while a man is in pursuing of that Covenant, he is imprisoned and oppressed by thy Officers, Courts, and Justices, so called. Thou hast made Ordinances to cast down Oppressing, Popish, Episcopal, Self-willed and Prerogative Laws; yet we see, That Self-wil and Prerogative power, is the great standing Law, that rules all in action, and others in words.Thou hast made many promises and protestations to make the Land a Free Nation: And yet at this very day, the same people, to whom thou hast made such Protestatins of Liberty, are oppressed by thy Courts, Sizes, Sessions, by thy Justices and Clarks of the Peace, so called, Bayliffs, Committees, are imprisoned, and forced to spend that bread, that should save their lives from Famine”.

One strange contradiction of Winstanley is that he had no problem with his supporters fighting in the civil war but would not countenance using force to achieve his political and social ends against Cromwell or Parliament. “And we shall not do this by force of Arms, we abhorre it, For that is the work of the Midianites, to kill one another; But by obeying the Lord of Hosts, who hath Revealed himself in us, and to us, by labouring the Earth in righteousness together, to eate our bread with the sweat of our brows, neither giving hire, nor taking hire, but working together, and eating together, as one man, or as one house of Israel restored from Bondage; and so by the power of Reason, the Law of righteousness in us, we endeavour to lift up the Creation from that bondage of Civil Propriety, which it groans under”.

Winstanley who was described as “typical Englishman” perhaps saved his most savage attack on “so-called "free enterprise". On trade and speculation "If any do buy or sell the earth or the fruits thereof, unless it be with strangers or another nation according to the Laws of Navigation, they shall be both put to death as traitors to the peace of the Commonwealth." 

Even a cursory reading of this document the intent is clear that the act of digging and planting vegetables in Surrey was a well thought-out and theoretically justified by this document. Winstanley declares at the beginning “A Declaration to the Powers of England, and to all the Powers of the World, shewing the Cause why the Common People of England have begun, and gives Consent to Digge up, Manure, and Sow Corn upon George-Hill in Surrey; by those that have Subscribed, and thousands more that gives Consent”.

Winstanley clearly believed that he had Gods blessing for his actions and that “In the beginning of Time, the great Creator Reason, made the Earth to be a Common Treasury, to preserve Beasts, Birds, Fishes, and Man, the lord that was to govern this Creation; for Man had Domination given to him, over the Beasts, Birds, and Fishes; but not one word was spoken in the beginning, That one branch of mankind should rule over another”.

While much of his documents are couched in religious phraseology a careful reading of the document reveals Winstanley understood the social and economic issues that were at stake during the Civil war. He attacked the enclosure of land carried out by previous kings which brought large scale poverty to sections of the population and the enrichment of a few landlords. Winstanley clearly believed this to be wrong.

“And hereupon, The Earth (which was made to be a Common Treasury of relief for all, both Beasts and Men) was hedged in to In-closures by the teachers and rulers, and the others were made Servants and Slaves: And that Earth that is within this Creation made a Common Store-house for all, is bought and sold, and kept in the hands of a few, whereby the great Creator is mightily dishonoured, as if he were a respector of persons, delighting int he comfortable Livelihoods of some, and rejoycing in the miserable povertie and straits of others “.

Another significant part of the document is Winstanley’s understanding that history was being made with the Civil war and revolution. He makes the point that the old world is ending and he hoped that the new world would be a far more equal one. “But for the present state of the old World that is running up like parchment in the fire”, 

This document is a further justification for the actions of the Diggers in claiming the earth as a common treasury. “We whose narnes are subscribed, do in the name of all the poor oppressed people in England, declare unto you, that call your selves lords of Manors, and Lords of the Land, That in regard the King of Righteousness, our Maker, hath inlightened our hearts so far, as to see, That the earth was not made purposely for you, to be Lords of it, and we to be your Slaves, Servants, and Beggers; but it was made to be a common Livelihood to all, without respect of persons: And that your buying and selling of Land, and the Fruits of it, one to another, is The cursed thing, and was brought in by War; which hath, and still does establish murder, and theft, In the hands of some branches of Mankinde over others, which is the greatest outward burden, and unrighteous power, that the Creation groans under: For the power of inclosing Land, and owning Propriety, was brought into the Creation by your Ancestors by the Sword; which first did murther their fellow Creatures, Men, and after plunder or steal away their Land, and left this Land successively to you, their Children. And therefore, though you did not kill or theeve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand, by the power of the Sword; and so you justifie the wicked deeds of your Fathers; and that sin of your Fathers, shall be visited upon the Head of you, and your Children, to the third and fourth Generation, and longer too, till your bloody and theeving power be rooted out of the Land.

Winstanley again reiterates that the land has been stolen by the few from the many. This document gropes towards an understanding of the laws of England’s early capitalist development. He is clear that the laws of the land are clearly designed to protect the interest of a money elite. “ That your Laws shall not reach to oppress us any longer, unless you by your Laws will shed the innocent blood that runs in our veins”.

Winstanley believes that the owners of land have no right to it as he believed that these landlords “ got your Propriety by murther and theft, and you keep it by the same power from us, that have an equal right to the Land with you, by the righteous Law of Creation, yet we shall have no occasion of quarrelling (as you do) about that disturbing devil, called Particular propriety: For the Earth, with all her Fruits of Corn, Cattle, and such like, was made to be a common Store-house of Livelihood to all Mankinde, friend, and foe, without exception.

While this document exhibits the traits of a primitive form of communism to label the Diggers as early Marxists as some historians have done is misleading. Take this passage.

“And to prevent your scrupulous Objections, know this, That we Must neither buy nor sell; Money must not any longer (after our work of the Earths community is advanced) be the great god, that hedges in some, and hedges out others; for Money is but part of the Earth: And surely, the Righteous Creator, who is King, did never ordain, That unless some of Mankinde, do bring that Mineral (Silver and Gold) in their hands, to others of their own kinde, that they should neither be fed, nor be clothed; no surely, For this was the project of Tyrant-flesh (which Land-lords are branches of) to set his Image upon Money. And they make this unrighteous Law, that none should buy or sell, eat, or be clothed, or have any comfortable Livelihood among men, unless they did bring his Image stamped upon Gold or Silver in their hands”.

To undertake their project of a common treasury Winstanley would have to overthrow the present economic and social system i.e. early capitalism by a revolution. To put matters simply the social and economic conditions to do that were not in place and secondly the only class that could have achieved would have been a working class which was only in embryonic stages. This was not in the plans of the Diggers as they were not against private property.

In A LETTER TO The Lord Fairfax,AND His Councell of War,June 9.Winstanley was already drawing certain conclusions from the actions of the Diggers. Winstanley and his Diggers spoke in the name of the poor but in reality his movement was tiny and probably ran into the hundreds. So he decided to appeal to the one force that could implement or protect his utopia and that was the New Model Army. Whether Winstanley understood that even if the army had intervened it would have amounted to a militarily imposed solution. It is that context that his letter should be seen.

Winstanley in his letter clearly stated that they had no intention of forcibly defending their action “We understand, that our digging upon that Common, is the talk of the whole Land; some approving, some disowning, some are friends, filled with love, and sees the worke intends good to the Nation, the peace whereof is that which we seeke after; others are enemies filled with fury, and falsely report of us, that we have intent to fortifie our selves, and afterwards to fight against others, and take away their goods from them, which is a thing we abhor: and many other slanders we rejoyce over, because we know ourselves cleare, our endeavour being not otherwise, but to improve the Commons, and to cast off that oppression and outward bondage which the Creation groans under, as much as in us lies, and to lift up and preserve the purity thereof”.

Winstanley at no stage attributes any bad actions to Fairfax, Cromwell or to parliament. Winstanley blames “Norman Tryanny” for the attacks on his commune.

“that were offended at first, begin now to be moderate, and to see righteousnesse in our work, and to own it, excepting one or two covetous Free-holders, that would have all the Commons to themselves, and that would uphold the Norman Tyranny over us, which by the victorie that you have got over the Norman Successor, is plucked up by the roots, therefore ought to be cast away. And we expect, that these our angry neighbours, whom we never wronged, nor will not wrong, will in time see their furious rashnesse to be their folly, and become moderate, to speak and carry themselves like men rationafiy, and leave off pushing with their hornes like beasts: they shall have no cause to say wee wrong them, unlesse they count us wrongers of them for seeking a livelihood out of the common Land of England by our righteous labour, which is our freedome, as we are Englishmen equall with them, and rather our freedome then theirs, because they are elder brothers and Free-holders, and call the Inclosures their own land, and we are younger brothers, and the poore oppressed, and the Common Lands are called ours, by their owne confession”.

Winstanley again reiterates that that their aim was not to take land from other people and if that did happen he freely admits that the laws of the land should be used against them “But now if you that are elder brothers, and that call the Inclosures your own land, hedging out others, if you will have Magistrates and Laws in this outward manner of the Nations, we are not against it, but freely without disturbance shall let you alone; and if any of we Commoners, or younger Brothers, shall steal your corne, or cattell, or pull down your hedges, let your laws take hold upon any of us that so offends”.

To the City of London.Freedome and peace desired

Perhaps one of the most important documents included in this Verso book is Winstanley’s address to the City of London. This a rare piece in so much it is very autobiographical and gives a valuable insight in Winstanley thinking and clearly outlines how he was moved by the events of the civil war and it impacted on his class

From the document we glean that he was a tradesman in London and according to him a Freeman. When the Civil war broke out against Charles I he contributed to the parliaments cause. But due to the Civil war he was deprived of his property, “by fraudulent representatives of the “thievish art of buying and selling, in conjunction with the oppressive imposts for the war”,

He was then forced to accept the help of friends who gave the means to settle in the country. This was not a success and was soon pauperised by war taxes and the fact that soldiers billeted in his property (which was a common complaint amongst the populous).

What impact did these events have on Winstanley? For the revisionists this kind of change in the social standing and its impact on someone’s thinking has no importance. But for me this is crucial to understand how people like Winstanley and others like him were forced to think through their lives and react to the profound changes wrought by war and revolution and change Winstanley did and in a very quick way.

Edward Bernstein relates according to him “his heart was filled with beautiful thoughts, and things were revealed to him, of which he had never before read or heard, and which many to whom he related them could not believe”. One of these ideas was that the earth should be made a common treasury of all men without distinction of person”. Adding: “And I see the poore must first be picked out, and honoured in this work, for they begin to receive the ward of righteousness, but the rich generally are enemies to true freedome.”

“Bernstein adds “He represents the most advanced ideas of his time; in his Utopia we find coalesced all the popular aspirations engendered and fertilized by the Revolution. It would be more than absurd to criticize, from our modern standpoint, his positive proposals, or to stress their imperfections and inexpediency. They are to be explained in the light of the economic structure of society as he found it. We would fain admire the acumen and sound judgment exhibited by this simple man of the people, and his insight into the connection existing between the social conditions of his time and the causes of the evils which he assails”.

Conclusion

The Diggers were part of a group of men that sought to understand the profound political and social changes that were taking place at the beginning of the 17th century. They were the true ‘Ideologues of the revolution’ and had a capacity for abstract thought. While the Diggers were sympathetic to the poor, which stemmed from their religion they had no programme to bring about social change, they never advocated a violent overturning of society. Their class outlook, that being of small producers, conditioned their ideology. At no stage did the Diggers or that matter did the larger group the Levellers constitute a mass movement. The contradiction between their concern for the poor and their position of representatives of the small property owners caused some tension. They had no opposition to private property and therefore they accepted that inequalities would always exist, they merely argued for the lot of the poor to be made more equitable.

Further reading

1. The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley edited by Thomas N. Corns, Ann Hughes, David Loewenstein Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN: 9780199576067; 1064pp.; Price: £189.00

2. Ariel Hessayon, review of The Complete Works of Gerrard Winstanley, (review no. 1043) URL: http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/1043 Goldmiths College, University of London

3. Mark Kishlansky, A Monarchy Transformed. Britain 1603–1714 (Harmondsworth, 1996),

4. S. P. Woodhouse, Puritanism and Liberty, being the Army Debates (1647–9) from the Clarke Manuscripts with Supplementary Documents (Chicago, IL, 1938).Back to (2)

5. Gerard Winstanley, The Law of Freedom in a Platform (New ed., San Francisco, CA, 1939).Back to (3)

6. The Works of Gerrard Winstanley. With an appendix of documents relating to the Digger Movement, ed. George Sabine (Ithaca, NY, 1941).Back to (4)

7. Gerrard Winstanley. Selections from his Works, ed. Leonard Hamilton (London, 1944).Back to (5)

8. Winstanley: The Law of Freedom and other writings, ed. Christopher Hill (Harmondsworth, 1973), pp. 9–10.Back to (6)

9. Economic and Social Thought of Gerrard Winstanley Winthrop S Hudson Journal of Modern History March 1946 vol xv111

Notes

10. A DECLARATION FROM THE Poor oppressed People OF ENGLAND, DIRECTED

To all that call themselves, or are called Lords of Manors, through this NATION;

That have begun to cut, or that through fear and covetousness, do intend to cut down

the Woods and Trees that grow upon the Commons and Waste Land. Printed in the Year, 1649.

11. A LETTER TO The Lord Fairfax,AND His Councell of War,WITH Divers Questions to the Lawyers, and Ministers: Proving it an undeniable Equity, That the common People ought to dig, plow, plant and dwell upon the Commons, with- out hiring them, or paying Rent to any. Delivered to the Generall and the chief Officers on Saturday June 9. By Jerrard Winstanly, in the behalf of those who have begun to dig upon George-Hill in Surrey. London: Printed for Giles Calvert, at the black Spread-Eagle at the West end of P A U L S. 1 6 4 9. To the Lord Fairfax, Generall of the English Forces, and his Councell of War.

12. The True Levellers Standard Advanced: Or, The State of Community Opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men.Source: http://www.kingston.ac.uk/cusp/Lectures/Hill.htm

13. Radical publisher Verso Celebrated 40th anniversary last year, Originally came out of the New Left Review in 1970.

14. Eduard Bernstein Cromwell and Communism. Some care should be taken with Bernstein. While by being described as a Marxist while he was in early life he later repudiated Marxism and became an arch reformist.


Sunday, 3 April 2011

Would the The Levellers really vote Tory now.


The purpose of this article is to firstly examine current attitudes amongst politicians as regards the Levellers that is the 17th century radicals, not the musicians. The second part will examine current historiography. This article was prompted firstly as the result of a trip to St Mary’s Church in Putney which has an exhibition on the Putney Debates 1647. The information on Leveller involvement in the debates (which was considerable) was largely dominated by politicians and historians with close association with the British Labour Party and historiography is dominated by a Whig Interpretation of History.

A second prompting came from a correspondence with Christopher Thompson. In previous emails Thompson has opposed the use of the word revisionist to describe current historiography regarding the Levellers and the English revolution in general. For the sake of argument I will call the new generation of historians who have written anything on the Levellers as Post Revisionists. While the majority of these historians writings share many of the characteristics of the previous generation revisionist historians the point would be to examine whether they are a disparate group just revisiting old ground, are they saying something new and do they share a common view.

The Levellers are according to one writer are “normally claimed by the left”. Nominally this statement is true but it is far too simplistic. While it would be correct to say that historians generally define their attitude to the English Civil War by their attitude to the Levellers, this can also be said of politicians as well.

When recently carrying out some research into current positions on the Levellers a surprises came up. As far as I can ascertain no right wing historian or politician has ever claimed the Levellers and what they fought for their own historical and political ends.

So imagine my surprise when the Conservative MP Douglas Carswell put in a claim. In a post on his blog he attacks David Dimbleby's Age of Revolution episode on BBC which put forward the common notion that the Levellers belong to the left.

He writes “The photography may have been great, but the script was lazy. Assessing the civil war, battle re-enactment enthusiasts explained they'd have backed the Levellers and the Parliamentary cause because they "vote Labour". The idea that the Levellers belong to the contemporary left is simply wrong. The Levellers wanted to radically disperse power away from remote and unaccountable elites. They wanted lower taxes, more trade, and a less belligerent foreign policy. Most of all, they felt that those who make the law should be accountable to those who live under it.

“Yet Labour is the party of a remote, detached Europhile elite; of the Human Rights establishment and remote EU commissars; of the quango state with its army of executive appointees; of overbearing, intrusive government. Charles I would have felt quite at home. Which party, on the other hand, devolved control over economic things in the 1980s, giving people - not planners - control over their lives? Which party today proposes a radical decentralisation of power and localism? Which party is looking to make politics and public services more directly accountable to the people? The Conservative party is the party of the Levellers “.

Carswell, in his book called The Plan with the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan, expands further on his remarks by arguing that Conservatives “are now the champions of radical decentralisation”. Significantly The Plan includes a tribute to Benn (who has championed the Levellers cause and spoke at many meetings on the subject). Carswell is not the only Tory to praise Benn. According to one writer “David Cameron at the Woodstock Literary Festival, was asked which books had influenced him. He named 1984 by George Orwell, and then a book by the man who used to be seen as the figurehead of the "loony left". The other [book that most influenced me] was Tony Benn's book Arguments for Democracy, a very powerful book which makes the important point that we vest power in people who are elected, and that we can get rid of, rather than those we can't”.

The fact that the Tories are so comfortable adopting the Levellers mantle says a lot about how close the Labour Party are to the Tories both politically and on a growing number of historical issues such as the Levellers.

Douglas Carswell explains this new found camaraderie “Historically, it was the left that sought to disperse power among the people. This high-minded aim informed and elevated the English radical tradition over the centuries. It was the cause of the Levellers and the Chartists and the Suffragettes, the cause of religious toleration and meritocracy, of the secret ballot and universal education. The left is right to take immense pride in these achievements, which almost no one now questions. These days, though, the radical cause should have different targets. The elites have altered in character and composition. The citizen is far less likely to be impacted by the decisions of dukes or bishops than by those of Nice or his local education authority. The employees of these and similar agencies are, today, the unaccountable crown office-holders against whom earlier generations of radicals would have railed. Yet, with some exceptions – among whom, in a special place of honour, stands Tony Benn – few contemporary British leftists show any interest in dispersing power when doing so would mean challenging public sector monopolies. The left, in short, has let the standard of radicalism slide from its fingers. The question is whether the right will snatch it up”.

While Benn has feigned surprise at the Tories claim he has in the past been on favourable terms with a number of leading Tories. On one such issue he wrote in the Sunday Telegraph in The words of Chris Marsden “to justify his backing right-wing Conservative David Davis in the Haltemprice and Howden by-election. Davis forced the election by resigning as an MP in protest at the passing in parliament of Labour’s bill extending detention without trial for terrorist suspects to 42 days. Benn was one of a handful of Labour time-servers who hailed Davis for championing civil liberties, praising him on Sky News and speaking at what was advertised as a debate to launch Davis’s campaign on June 20.Given the character of Davis’s politics—and those of Benn—it was appropriate that the meeting was held at Hymer’s College private school, with annual fees of around £8,000 a year and possessing its very own Masonic lodge and Army Cadet Force detachment. Around a hundred people heard Benn say of “David’s courage” in opposing 42 days’ detention that “people will look back in the future and say ‘thank God.’ ”

In general political writings on the Levellers have been dominated by the Labour Party and specifically its Fabian wing of who Benn is a leading representative. Speaking about British Fabianism, Leon Trotsky wrote: “Throughout the whole history of the British Labour movement there has been pressure by the bourgeoisie upon the proletariat through the agency of radicals, intellectuals, drawing-room and church socialists and Owenites who reject the class struggle and advocate the principle of social solidarity, preach collaboration with the bourgeoisie, bridle, enfeeble and politically debase the proletariat.”

What is any serious student of the subject of the Levellers to make of all this. Anyone who knows the history of the Levellers this is not a simple question in fact it is very complex. From the above MPs mentioned few people will get any sense of the revolutionary process (which the Levellers took part in) that brought Oliver Cromwell to power as England’s first non-royal head of state. For Tory MPs many of whom would lack any kind of historical knowledge on this matter there is a tendency to gloss over the revolutionary nature (in the 17th Century) of the Levellers. Perhaps most importantly they stay deathly silent on their social writings.

Would for instance Mr Carswell really agree with the egalitarian sentiment of Thomas Rainborowe a leading Leveller at the Putney debates who said "I think that the poorest he that is in England hath a life to live, as the greatest he, and therefore ... every man that is to live under a government ought first, by his own consent, to put himself under that government; and I do think that the poorest man in England is not at all bound in a strict sense to that government that he hath not had a voice to put himself under." Lest it be forgotten the Levellers also took part in a successful revolution and fought a successful civil war and cut off a kings head.

To some extent this confusion, distortion and outright falsehoods is not just the result of a few MPs that appear out of their depth on the subject of the Levellers. The problem stems from the fact that current historiography is dominated by a number of conservative historians who have largely either written the Levellers out of history or have when they have mentioned them is to attack any Marxist understanding of them. This decades long attack on Marxism has had a detrimental effect on the quality of writing not just on the Levellers but writing on the English Civil War itself.

The problem in finding what new historiography is is a bit difficult. The simple way would be to examine all that has been published in say the last decade or so. Things are complicated by the fact that in most universities most of the reading lists are dominated by ‘old’ writings and historians. So the second part of this article will be a mixture of the two.

Who were the Levellers? The Levellers are probably most known for their part in the Putney Debates 1647 According to Martin Kettle” As CB Macpherson showed more than 40 years ago, the Putney debates are an intense, undistracted and potent discussion about who should be included in the franchise and who should not. There were, Macpherson argued, four main positions at Putney. Position number one limited the vote to owners of freehold land worth 40 shillings a year and freemen of trading corporations; this was the position supported by Oliver Cromwell and Henry Ireton, the key officers at Putney. Position two limited the vote to all male householders assessed for relief of the poor, excluding servants and those receiving alms; this was the position supported by the Agreement of the People, the army manifesto that formed the initial agenda at Putney. Position three gave the vote to all men except servants and alms-receivers; this was supported by most of the Leveller participants at Putney. Position four gave the vote to all men except criminal and delinquents; this position was supported by some Levellers at Putney. Yet even Rainborowe makes clear at one stage in the debate that he does not want to create a democracy in which "the poor" outvote "the people". According to Macpherson, in the England of the 1640s, position one would have given the vote to 212,000 men: position two to 375,000; position three to 417,000; and position four to around 1,170,000. Macpherson has had his critics down the years, but his essential schema remains an essential starting-point for an understanding of what did happen at Putney - and what didn't”.

While post revisionist historians have downplayed the extent to which the Levellers were involved in the army pre Putney it is clear from such petitions that sections of the army were becoming far more aware of its own position in politics and within society.

A much more radical tract was in print by 29 October entitled A Call to all soldiers of the Army by the Free People of England which was a defence of the radical regiments and demanded a purge of Parliament amidst a call for the agitators to meet as an ‘exact council’ and to act with the ‘truest lovers of the people you could find’. One of the main aims of the document was to expose the “hypocrisy” and “deceit” of Cromwell and Ireton.

The General Council of the new Model army resided in Putney church essentially to discuss the Levellers Agreement of the People from 28th October to 11 November1647. According to H N Braislford ‘When one compares these debates with those of its sittings at Reading in July, it is clear that in three months the temper and outlook of the army were changed. At Putney the mood was sultry and tense’. While it true that the grandees and the agitators were moving roughly in the same direction in July by October a huge chasm was to open up between them.

The Levellers had other ideas and their disagreement with Cromwell stemmed from their social position rather than in any tactical nuances. In that sense it is important to view the Levellers in the context of the period. It is clear that much of what the Levellers fought for was incredibly radical for its time. The Levellers appeared and were in fact organised as a political party in the years 1645-46. They were responsible for many of modern day political techniques such as mass demonstrations, collecting petitions, leafleting and the lobby of MPs. Their strength mainly lay in London and other towns and had quite considerable support in the army. The movement was an extremely disparate group containing groups such as the Diggers or as they have called the True Levellers and Ranters who were on the extreme left wing of the Leveller movement.

The main plank of its manifesto was the call for a democratic republic in which the House of Commons would be more important than the House of Lords. A Leveller would have wanted redistribution and extension of the franchise, legal and economic reform on behalf of men of small property, artisans, yeoman, small merchants, and the very layer which made up the Levellers themselves.

Levellers also wished to democratise the gilds and the City of London, a decentralisation of justice and the election of local governors and stability of tenure for copyholders. While the Levellers were sympathetic to the poor, which stemmed from their religion which essentially was not different from that of Cromwell. They had no programme to bring about social change; they never advocated a violent overturning of society. Their class outlook, that being of small producers, conditioned their ideology. At no stage did the Levellers constitute a mass movement.

This contradiction caused some tension between their concern for the poor and their position of representatives of the small property owners. They had no opposition to private property and therefore they accepted that inequalities would always exist, they merely argued for the lot of the poor to be made more equitable. One of their members John Cooke explained ‘I am no advocate for the poore further then to provide bread and necessaries for them, without which, life cannot be maintained, let rich men feast, and the poore make hard meale, but let them have bread sufficient’. Knowing that they could not come to power through the presently constituted electorate the Levellers attempted to find constitutional ways of getting round it.

A draft constitution produced in 1647 called the Agreement of the People declared that the state had broken down in civil war and must be reformed on the basis of certain fundamental ‘native rights’ safeguarded even from a sovereign parliament: religious toleration, no tithes. The attack on parliament as sovereign went against one of the most fundamental reasons for the war in the first place. The agreement amongst other demands, called for biennial parliaments, franchise reform, only those who contracted into the new state by accepting the agreement were to have the vote.

The limitations of the Leveller program was cruelly exposed in a very famous exchange between Colonel Rainborowe, leader of the Levellers in parliament and H. Ireton, Cromwell’s son in law. Rainborowe stated that ‘The poorest he that is in England has a life to live as the greatest he and therefore every man that is to live under a government ought, first, by his own consent. To put himself under the government’.

This seemed all very democratic but ‘freeborn Englishmen’ excluded servants and the poorer sections that did not constitute ‘the people’. Christopher Hill says ‘The Leveller conception of free Englishmen, was thus restricted, even if much wider, than that embodied in the existing franchise. Their proposals would perhaps have doubled the number of men entitled to vote. But manhood suffrage would have quadrupled it. The generals, generally horrified, pretended at Putney that the Levellers were more democratic than they were’.

To put it more simply the generals deliberately exaggerated the radicalism of the Levellers in order to label them extremists and to mobilise their own supporters against them. Cromwell correctly recognised that if the franchise was widened it would threaten his majority in parliament. Again Hill explains ‘Defending the existing franchise Henry Ireton rejected the doctrine “that by a man being born here, he shall have a share in that power that shall dispose of the lands here and of all things here”. The vote was rightly restricted to those who “had a permanent fixed interest in this kingdom”. Namely, the persons in whom all lands lies and those incorporation’s in whom all trading lies’

Ireton claimed the present House of Commons represented them and went on to ask by what right the vote was demanded for all free Englishmen. If by natural right, taking up the Levellers point that they should be free. Who could freely dispose of their own labour? Then Ireton could see no reason why men had as much natural right to property as to the vote. He went on to point out that if you give them the vote, then they will be the majority in parliament and they will give equal property rights to everybody. This argument completely confused Rainborowe and undermined his argument.

Cromwell was acutely aware that the ideas of the levellers and other smaller groups such as the Diggers were becoming a dangerous business. Cromwell said of what he call the “lunatics”, “you must break these men or they will break you”The importance of the levellers and to some extent the Diggers that they represented the aspirations of the poorest section of society. They were not a mass movement of the poor. While their ideas had very explosive social implications, the necessary objective conditions did not exist at the time.

Old Revisionists

One thing characterises most of the old revisionists historians is there attack on the Marxist conception of revolution. Part of this process is to down play the role of semi revolutionary groups such as the Levellers.

For instance when the Leveller mutiny at Burford took place revisionist historians such as Ian Gentles have challenged the premise that Burford represented nothing but a minor skirmish. He “claims that only a minority of the men in three (not four as Brian Manning alleges) of the troops of Ireton's regiment joined the Leveller inspired mutiny at Burford”. Ian Gentles article tends to downplay a Marxist analysis of the English revolution. To back this claim up he says that there was widespread popular support for Royalist although he does point out that not one of Charles 1st subjects risked their necks to save him.

Brian Manning countered this attack by explaining that never believed that this was a chemically pure revolution. The revolution was a complex development and class relations were in a state of flux.

Gentles does make one point that to my mind never been successfully countered by historians who are sympathetic to a Marxist historiography of the English revolution. Why were there no major uprisings, riots or revolts before and during the Civil war?

This point was answered by the Russian writer Evgeny Pashukanis “Here we encounter a fact imposing a characteristic imprint on the whole course of the first English Revolution: it was not accompanied by any significant agrarian movement. Proceeding from the Levellers, the attempt to transform the political structure of England of that day into a consistent bourgeois democratic condition was never supported by a massive peasant uprising. For this of course there were fully sufficient reasons. In the first place, by that time serf dependence no longer existed in England. Almost everywhere the corvée had been replaced by money rent. The cause of the greatest discontent had therefore been eliminated. In the second place, the class divisions of the English peasantry, about which we spoke above, had gone rather far by the time of the Great Revolution. A rich upper stratum, separated from the general mass, tried to improve its farming at the expense of the less wealthy strata. Winstanley, the leader and ideologist of the “Diggers”, who attempted to realize something like agrarian communism, thus draws this contradiction between the rich freeholders and the poor: “they (the freeholders) exhaust the common pastures, put an excessive number of sheep and draft animals on them, and as a result the small renter and peasant farmer hardly manage to feed their cows on the grazing ground.” The rich upper strata of the country took an active part in the destruction of the old common system, in particular the enclosure of the common lands. In this instance, it united with the landowners against the rural poor”.

Ann Talbot also makes a significant point on this matter. Religious dissent is a complex religious and intellectual tradition that owes its origins, in part, to the radical elements of the English Civil War such as the Levellers, who argued for greater equality. But it also encompassed the merchant and manufacturing classes in their fight against the aristocracy. It espoused ideas of the freeborn Englishman resisting the arbitrary powers of his masters and praying in his nonconformist chapel. It was expressed in books such as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress (1678), the allegorical tale of a Christian's journey to the Celestial City. There was also a Millenarian tradition based on a literal understanding of the Book of Revelations and the establishment of a New Jerusalem. The imagery was a reflection of deep objective changes in society that also expressed the subjective striving for a better future".

One such revisionist historian who has challenged the above premise is Conrad Russell who in his Origins of the English Civil War sought to explain the civil war from the standpoint of the Nobility not from any socio economic changes. Jim Holstun described Russell’s book as a “manifesto for historical revisionism”. Holstun went on to point out that Russell sought another way to explain the social changes that were taking place in the English revolution. That historians should concentrate on the upper yeomanry, the middling sort of people. Russell would often make the remark that he was not conversant with the terms feudalism and capitalism.

Austin Woolrych tends to down play the role of social forces in the debates but not to be extent of Mark Kishlansky who completely rejected what he called ‘social determinism’. Woolrych somewhat contentiously states that the army had refrained from political activity despite the tendency of the Presbyterians both religious and political to portray it as a “hot bed of sectaries and radicals’. If this is true then did Putney really drop from the skies? One cannot but disagree with the attempt of Woolrych to down play the movement of contending social forces in the run up to and during Putney.

While you cannot fault Woolrych for his erudition and his books are worth reading not so much for his analysis but for the tremendous usage of empirical material. His major weakness is he sees the debates at Putney in terms of individuals, if Wildman had done this, if the Levellers had not opposed the Grandees which is fine but if this appreciation of the individual is not coupled to a understanding that these individuals represented not only themselves but contending class forces then this tends to diminish the historical understanding.

In one passage Woolrych again tries to separate the debate at Putney from the general discussion within the army and outside it. ‘Anyone who strains to hear the voice of the soldiery in the Putney debates should be aware that, apart from one brief interjection by an unnamed agent, the only troopers who spoke that day were Sexby and Everard, and on the other two days recorded by Clarke the only others who opened their mouths were Lockyer and Allen. No agitator of a foot regiment is known to have spoken. Out of just fifty officer-agitator of a foot regiment is known to have spoken. Out of just fifty officer-agitators listed in October, twelve spoke in the course of the three-recorded days five of them only once, and very briefly. We should be very cautious about treating the Putney debates, wonderful as they are as the typical voice of the army”.

While it is true that the ordinary soldiers were thin on the ground the politics that were debated at Putney had a deep resonance inside the army. Even Woolrych is forced to describe such incidents where ‘open incitements to mutiny, and were already bearing poisoned fruit. Fairfax had lately ordered Colonel Robert Lilburne’s foot regiment to Newcastle, for sound military reasons but a party of new agents bearing copies of the Case of the Armie overtook it and urged it not to let the army be divided. Thereupon its soldiers turned back, held an unauthorised rendezvous and refused to obey their officers. Other regiments were in a state of incipient mutiny before the debates at Putney were would up’.

Perhaps the most cynical of the revisionist historians is Mark Kishlansky who says ‘Much has been written about ideology of the army, but most of it misconceived. A principle reason for this has been historians have assumed that the lowly social origins of many of the officers created a commitment to radical ideology. This is false on both factual and logical grounds. There were men of low birth among the new Model’s officers, and much has been made of Pride the drayman and Hewson the cobbler more still might be made of obscure officers like Sponger and Creamer whose surnames suggest backgrounds in trades and service. The army also contained a Cecil, a Sheffield, and three colonels who were knights. Yet careful study of the armies social origin, which lends support to the view that they were more traditional in nature (of solid status in rural and urban structures) still does not meet the real objection to existing interpretation- the fallacy of social determinism’.

In this quote Kishlansky is clearly having a dig at Christopher Hill who was the main advocate of a materialist view of History. While Kishlansky is perhaps the most vocal exponent of this view it is the prevailing academic view that there was no rising bourgeoisie and that people from different social classes can be seen on both sides. As can be seen earlier Russell places Cromwell as a figure from the declining gentry rather than the rising middle class.

This view has been opposed by A Talbot “Hill, of course, was well aware that there were gentlemen and landowners on the parliamentary side in the civil war an small farmers and artisans on the royalist side he had read enough Marx and Lenin to know that one could not expect a chemically pure revolution in which the members of one social class lined up one side of the barricades and those of the other on the opposite side. However, he was sensitive enough to his historical sources to detect the social currents that brought people of diverse social backgrounds into struggle against the king and well-grounded enough in history to identify new and revolutionary ideas in the curious and archaic guise which they appeared- as ideologists of the revolution ransacked the Bible and half understood historical precedent for some kind of theory to explain what they were doing’.

Hindsight is always a great general after the events at Putney Cromwell moved decisively against his two main enemies the Levellers and the King while Cromwell’s individual qualities came to the fore in this time it is undoubtedly that because he was a part of a rising and somewhat small social class that saw the King as an obstacle to its rise as rulers of England that he moved in the way he did. The debates at Putney if nothing else gave us proof that the ideas that were discussed there highlighted the actions different class forces. They gave us a documentary proof that contrary to the revisionist the main motor force in history is the struggle of contending class forces.

Post Revisionists.

What can be said of the new generation of historians that write on the English Revolution? Much of the new historiography has been dominated by television orientated historians I will concentrate on what they have put down on paper. While it would be correct to say that these modern historians are not a homogeneous bunch again one common thread to their writing is an antipathy towards Marxist historiography.

Tristram Hunt is a British Historian who is closely tied to the apron strings of the British Labour Party. While I am in general not against political historians it is after all useful as E H Carr was fond of telling people to take note of the bees buzzing in historians head. But when a reputable and serious historian starts passing off historical articles as nothing more than party propaganda for a very right wing Labour government then I get nervous.

Despite his or her political views a serious historian should have a large degree of objectivity and an independence of spirit. Hunt has none of these. In fact he is very great danger of becoming seriously compromised by his association with the Labour Party.

His biography in Wikipedia makes interesting reading “born 31 May 1974) is a British historian, broadcaster and newspaper columnist. He also lectures on Modern British History at Queen Mary, University of London.Tristram Hunt read history at Trinity College, Cambridge and the University of Chicago, and was for a time an Associate Fellow of the Centre for History and Economics at King's College, Cambridge. His PhD, Civic thought in Britain, c.1820- c.1860, was taken at Cambridge and was awarded in 2000. Before this, Hunt had worked for the Labour Party at Millbank Tower in the 1997 general election; he also worked at the Party's headquarters during the following 2001 general election.

“Hunt was a fellow of the Institute for Public Policy Research and is on the board of the New Local Government Network (2004). He has made many appearances on television, presenting programmes on the English Civil War (2002), the theories of Isaac Newton, and the rise of the middle class, and makes regular appearances on BBC Radio 4, having presented broadcasts on such topics as the history of the signature. Hunt is an active New Labour supporter and Trustee of the Heritage Lottery Fund and has a column with the UK Sunday paper The Observer. He wrote an essay in the New Statesman comparing Cromwell's Republic to the Islamic fundamentalism dominant in Afghanistan at that time.”

Hunt seems to be a subscriber to the Whig interpretation of England’s historical past that was free of social upheaval and when it did have a revolution that Hunt admits to it was an orderly one such as the glorious revolution of 1688 but as Ann Talbot points out. “The sense that in Britain things were done differently and without continental excess was not entirely new. Burke had expressed it in his Reflections on the French Revolution, but there were plenty of voices to gainsay him and the social disturbances in the years of economic upheaval that followed the Napoleonic wars were a testimony to the contrary. Luddism, anti-corn law agitation, the anti-poor law movement, strikes and most of all Chartism demonstrated that Britain was not an island of social peace.

"Nonetheless the Whig interpretation of history had deep roots in the consciousness of the British political class. The visitor to Chatsworth House in Derbyshire can still see in the great entrance hall a fireplace inscribed with the legend “1688 The year of our liberty.” It refers to the “Glorious Revolution” when James II quit his throne and his kingdom overnight and William of Orange was installed as king. This was the kind of palace revolution that the British ruling class increasingly preferred to look back on rather than the revolution in the 1640s when they had executed the king, conveniently overlooking the fact that James would not have run if he had not remembered the fate of his father—Charles I”.

It would seem that his main agenda is to defend Social Democracy from its opponents both left and right. He is hostile to Marxism and is joining a long list of historians seeking to discredit its ideas under conditions of growing capitalist instability and social inequality. Fearing that once again the ideas of Marxism could gain a powerful hold on the working people.

Hunt is probably most well-known for his writings on the English civil war. He has been giving access to substantial resources from various sources. The BBC gave him a four part series on the Civil war and his thoughts have been published quite freely in print. His viewpoint is largely from the standpoint of the monarchy and adds his voice to a number of revisionist historians that saw the civil war as an argument between nobles and not of revolutionary change and the establishment of a republic.

This leads me onto John AdamsonI had intended to try and analyse Adamson approach to the Levellers and make some general points regarding his place in current civil war historiography. This approach I must say hit the buffers straight away as I have not found a tremendous amount of his writings on the Levellers to do so. In fact if you examine his most latest work The Noble Revolt which runs to over 700 pages the Levellers are not mentioned once and there is only two page references to John Lilburne. On page 117 Lilburne is curiously named not as a Leveller but as a “puritan layman”.

Adamson is another post revisionist historian who shares Hunt’s view Cromwell, it can be argued could be better understood as a representative of the declining gentry rather than the rising bourgeois. Adamson believes that Cromwell never intended a revolution and come to think of it neither did those around him but “wished merely to restore what they believed to be the ancient constitution of the kingdom. The whole unpleasant episode could have been avoided if only Charles I had been a little wiser”.

Another aspect of current historiography regarding the Levellers has been the attempt to downplay the influence of this group. Recently John Morrill and P Baker have sought to challenge the level of civilian Leveller influence in the New Model Army by “ arguing that internal army discontent, rather than the machinations of Lilburne and Richard Overton, was behind the appearance of so-called ‘new agents ’ –unofficial agitators of at least five horse regiments – and The case of the armie “

On the other hand according to Baker “ The contentions of this body of work are not universally accepted, however, and scholars like Ian Gentles, Barbara Taft, and Austin Woolrych have continued to see the Levellers as a more cogent group who played an important role in the process of army politicization”.

The Paper by Elliot Vernon and P Baker called What was the first Agreement of the People tends to argue that the Levellers were far from a cogent group but were in fact part of a far larger political grouping centred on the Independent Alliance. Having read very little on this matter for me the jury is still very much out on this matter but here is what they say to back up their thesis.” the very concept of ‘the Levellers ’, in the sense of a political group which, in Taft’s opinion, existed from mid-1646 ‘as a distinct party with a programme and an organization to advance it ’, is problematic in itself. As is now well documented, at the level of nomenclature, any talk of ‘the Levellers ’ before the Putney debates is a terminological anachronism, for although the word had been used to describe enclosure rioters earlier in the century, it was not first used as a proper noun until 1 November 1647.21 Naturally, the absence of a name does not preclude the existence of such a grouping, and a small number of individuals, including Overton and William Walwyn, evidently came together in the mid-1640s through their involvement in a petitioning campaign in support of Lilburne and their common belief in religious toleration.22 For both Gentles and David Como, the triumvirate of Lilburne, Overton, and Walwyn were sufficiently interconnected by 1645 or 1646 to constitute the leadership of an identifiable group with their own distinctive political agenda.23 Yet, and in common with Kishlansky,24 we maintain it remains difficult to distinguish members of this group from the much larger alliance of political and religious Independents, sectaries, and self-styled ‘ well-affected’ Londoners who banded together at the same time through their support for the New Model Army and common hostility to Presbyterianism”.

One thing I will say about Baker and Vernon’s argument is that it does counter the revisionist’s argument that the Levellers were and insignificant group. In fact the more you look at it they were a significant political force who in the end were defeated by Cromwell who controlled the army.

In conclusion the purpose of this article is to try to provide a more precise understanding of the Levellers. I am not arguing that all current historians are a bunch of right wingers or that they have nothing to say on the Levellers. It would be correct to say that they are not a wholly homogeneous group but one characteristic does shine through and that is their hostility to a Marxist approach to civil war historiography.

NB In a note to Christopher Thompson this is only the start of many articles on the Post revisionist historians. As he can appreciate this is a large subject.

Notes

1. Douglas Carswell blog can be found @http://www.talkcarswell.com/show.aspx?id=1316

2. Cameron joins Daniel Hannan in Tony Benn fan club Posted by Andrew Sparrow Friday 18 September 2009 guardian.co.uk

3. A jewel of democracy Tristram Hunt The Guardian, Friday 26 October 2007

4. Leon Trotsky Writings on Britain, Volume 2, New Park, London 1974, p. 48

5. Don't romanticise PutneyThe Putney debates: The true lessons of 1647 are that in the end it all comes down to practicalities and power.Martin Kettle guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 31 October 2007 12.30 GMT

6. Evgeny Pashukanis Revolutionary elements in the History of the English State and Law 1927

7. The Noble Revolt John Adamson.

8. What was The First Agreement of the People P Baker and E Vernon The Historical Journal 2010.