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Radicalism in the English Revolution 1640-1660 (HI312) - Topics 4 & 5

The Levellers and the Army


Seminar themes:

Topic 4

  • Why did the Leveller movement emerge at the end of the war?
  • What were its main political, social, religious and economic principles?
  • What appeal did it have?
  • Why did it fail?

Topic 5

  • Why did the army revolt in 1647?
  • What was the balance between material grievances and ideological issues?
  • Why did the officers eventually regain control?
  • What light do the Putney debates throw on Leveller ideas?
  • What are the strengths and limitations of the debates as a source for historians?

Primary Sources

1. The Civilian Levellers

*R. Overton A Remonstrance of Many Thousand Citizens July 1646

*R. Overton An Appeale from the Commons to the Free People, July 1647

*J. Lilburne England's New Chains Discovered, February 1649

J. Lilburne Walwyn, Prince and Overton, A Manifestation, April 1649 in Prall, The Puritans Revolution, pp 165-74; also in Aylmer, The Levellers

J. Wildman Criticism of Ireton's 'Heads of Proposals' in his Putney Projects, 30 Dec 1647, Woodhouse, pp. 426-9

*Petition of Women 5 May 1649

J. Lilburne 'History of the Second Agreement of the People', from his Legal Fundamental Liberties, 8 June 1649, Woodhouse, pp. 342-55

2. The Army

*Putney Debates (full text in Woodhouse, pp. 1-124, and the Clarke Papers)

*Reports on the Army by Hugh Peters and Richard Baxter and army letters and manifestos in Woodhouse, pp. 387-9, 396-403, 420-2

The Clarke Papers, Camden Society, vols. 49, 54 (contains letters, etc., on radicals' organisation in the Army)

Section on Army in Woodhouse pp. 387-409, 422-55, 465-7, 474-8 (note that some of these duplicate Clarke Papers material)

H. Ireton Heads of Proposals, 5 August 1647, Woodhouse, pp 474-8

J. Wildman The Case of the Army truly stated, 15 October 1647, Woodhouse pp. 429-36

Secondary Sources

1. The Levellers

H. Shaw The Levellers (this and the next two are good short introductions)

Andrew Bradstock, Radical Religion in Cromwell’s England (2011), chap. 2

G E Aylmer, ed The Levellers in the English Revolution

P. Zagorin A History of Political Thought in the English Revolution (useful introductory chapter on the Levellers)

John Rees, The Leveller Revolution. Radical Political Organisation in England 1640-1650 (2016) Good study of the movement's rise and fall, and links with printers and churches).

H N Brailsford The Levellers (older but still useful)

J. Frank The Levellers (similar)

Rachel Foxley, The Levellers: radical political thought in the English Revolution (2013)

J. Sanderson 'But the People's Creatures' the philosophical basis of the English Civil War (1989) chap 5. Good on the Levellers political principles.

M. Braddick, God's Fury, England's Fire

Philip Baker, 'The Levellers, Decentralisation and the Agreements of the People' in Philip Baker and Elliot Vernon, eds., The Agreements of the People, the Levellers, and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (2012)

The Franchise issue

C B MacPherson The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, ch. 3 (an important thesis)

K V Thomas 'The Levellers and the Franchise' in The Interregnum, ed. Aylmer

J C Davis 'The Levellers and Democracy', Past and Present, 40 (1968)

A L Morton World of the Ranters (chapter on the franchise)

Social programme and Character

B. Manning The English People and the English Revolution 1640-9, chap. 9,10 (the most full discussion)

R. Howell 'Reconsidering the Levellers: "The Moderate"', Past and Present, 46 (1970) (important)

I. Gentles 'London Levellers in the English Revolution', Journal of Ecclesiastical History (1978)

N. Carlin 'Leveller Organisation in London', Historical Journal (1984)

M. James Social Problems and Policies of the Puritan Revolution (social background to the agitation)

Ann Hughes ‘Gender and politics in Leveller Literature’, in S. Amussen and M. Kishlansky, eds., Political Culture and Cultural Politics in Early Modern Europe (1995)

The Levellers and the Sects

J C Davis 'The Levellers and Christianity' in B. Manning, ed., Politics, Religion and the Civil War

M. Tolmie The Triumph of the Saints, chaps 7,8 (Levellers and the London sectarian churches)

B. Manning 'The Levellers and Religion', in J F McGregor and B. Reay, eds.; Radical Religion in the English Revolution

2. The Levellers and the Army

C H Firth Cromwell's Army (pioneering, with important chapter on politics in the army)

Philip Baker and Ellliot Vernon, eds., The Agreements of the People, the Levellers and the Constitutional Crisis of the English Revolution (2012). Chap 6, by Ian Gentles, is a good short account of relations between the officers, agitators, and Levellers beforee, during and after Putney.

J S Morrill 'Mutiny and Discontent in English Provincial Armies, 1645-47', Past and Present, 56 (1972) (important)

J S Morrill 'The Army Revolt of 1647' in Britain and the Netherlands, vol. vi, ed. A C Duke and C A Tamse (DA47.3)

V. Pearl 'London's Counter-Revolution' in Aylmer, ed., The Interregnum (Parliament's attempt to disband the army)

I. Gentles 'Arrears of Pay and Ideology in the Army Revolt of 1647', in War and Society (1976) (Arts Periodicals)

I. Gentles The New Model Army (1992), chs. 6,7,10

A. Woolrych Soldiers and Statemen : The General Council of the Army and its Debates, 1647-1648, (1987) (sympathetic to the officers. See especially chaps. 8-10 on the Putney Debates.

A. Woolrych, Britain in Revolution, 1625-1660 (2002), pp.352-98.

M. Kishlansky The Rise of the New Model Army, chaps. 7,8 (the army's politicisation)

M. Kishlansky 'The Army and the Levellers : the Road to Putney', Historical Journal, 41 (1979)

M. Mendle, ed. The Putney Debates of 1647. The Army, the Levellers, and the English State (2001), chaps. 1, 3-8

J. Holstun Ehud’s Dagger. Class Struggle in the English Revolution (2000), ch. 6 (‘New Model Soviets’).


M A Gibb John Lilburne

P. Gregg Freeborn John

M. Braddick, The Common Freedom of the People (Lilburne's career)

A L Morton The World of the Ranters (chapter on Walwyn)

For Overton see his entry in Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online)

M. Ashley John Wildman

G. Aylmer 'Gentlemen Levellers?', Past and Present 49 (1970) (social origins)