Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Radicalism in the English Revolution 1640-1660 (HI312) - Topic 6

Topic 6: Winstanley and the Diggers


Seminar themes:
  • On what grounds did Winstanley believe a communist utopia could be established in England?
  • How far did those grounds shift between 1649 and 1652?
  • What was the nature of his religious thinking?
  • What were his central political beliefs?
  • How far did he move from a religious to a secular ideology?
  • Why did the Diggers encounter hostility from the common people as well as from landowners?
Primary Sources
  • The True Levellers Standard Advanced (1649)

  • A New Year's Gift to the Parliament and Army (1650).
  • The Law of Freedom (1652).
  • Winstanley's other writings can be found in Hill's selection (Pelican), or The Complete Works ed G.H. Sabine, or The Complete Works ed. Corns, Hughes and Loewenstein (2009)
  • Secondary Reading

Andrew Bradstock, Radical Religion in Cromwell’s England (2011), chap. 3

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

C. Hill, The World Turned Upside Down (Leveller-Digger links).

C. Hill, 'Introduction' to his edition of Winstanley's works (Pelican).

SRC A. Bradstock, ed.Winstanley and the Diggers 1649-1999 (2000), esp. chaps. 1-5.

A Wood, Riot, Rebellion and Popular Politics in Early Modern England (2002), ch.4.

B. Manning, 1649 The Crisis of the English Revolution (1992), chap. 3 ('The Revolution and the Poor').

J C Davis, 'Gerrard Winstanley and the Restoration of True Magistracy', Past and Present, 70 (1976) (a partial critique of Hill).

G. Juretic, 'The Revolutionizing of Gerrard Winstanley',.Journal of the History of Ideas, 36 (1975).

L. Mulligan et al 'Winstanley: the Case for the Man as he said he was', Journ of Ecclesiastical History, 28 (1977) (emphasises the religious basis).

C. Hill, 'The Religion of Gerrard Winstanley',Past and Present Supplement no. 5 (1979).

G E Aylmer, 'The Religion of Gerrard Winstanley', in McGregor and Reay eds Radical Religion.

J. Holstun, Ehud's Dagger. class Struggle in the English Revolution (2000), ch.9.

N. Baxter, 'Gerrard Winstanley's Experimental Knowledge of God', Journ of Ecclesiastical History, 39 (1988).

J. Gurney, ‘Gerrard Winstanley and the Digger Movement in Walton and Cotham’, Historical Journal 37 (1994).

J. Alsop, 'Gerrard Winstanley's Later Life', Past and Present, 82 (1979).

R J Dalton, 'The Experience of Fraud 1641', Historical Journal, 1991 (W's early life).

H P Finberg, ed, The Agrarian History of England, vol. Iv ch. 7 on farm labourers is excellent on living conditions etc., of the poorest section of the agrarian community. For the independent-minded communities who lived on wastes and commons see pp 95-7, 107-8, 224-5, 409-12, 445-6.

G E Aylmer, 'The Religion of Gerrard Winstanley', in McGregor and Reay eds. Radical Religion.

Note: Two short Digger pamphlets published in Past and Present, 40 (1968) (edited by G E Aylmer) and Past and Present, 42 (1969) (edited by K. Thomas). Both have useful introductions and comments; note especially Thomas on the number and spread of Digger communities.