The Levellers, formed out of the explosive tumult of the 1640s and the battlefields of the Civil War, are central figures in the history of democracy. In this thrilling narrative, John Rees brings to life the men—including John Lilburne, Richard Overton and Thomas Rainsborough—and women who ensured victory and became an inspiration to republicans of many nations.
From the raucous streets of London and the clattering printers’ workshops that stoked the uprising, to the rank and file of the New Model Army and the furious Putney debates where the Levellers argued with Oliver Cromwell for the future of English democracy, this story reasserts the revolutionary nature of the 1642–51 wars and the role of ordinary people in this pivotal moment in history.
In particular Rees places the Levellers at the centre of the debates of 1647 when the nation was gripped by the question of what to do with the defeated Charles I. Without the Levellers and Agitators’ fortitude and well-organised opposition history may have avoided the regicide and missed its revolutionary moment. The legacy of the Levellers can be seen in the modern struggles for freedom and democracy across the world.
“A profound and scholarly account of the Levellers – the nonconformist republican radicals who clashed first with the monarch and then with Oliver Cromwell himself. The book combines the military-political history of the English revolution with an account of the social and ideological struggles that produced, out of the backstreets of 17th-century London, one of modernity's first revolutionary social movements.”
“Rees likes his subjects, as should anyone who values democracy and social justice. This is not just a readable narrative, explaining the development of the Levellers, but an inspirational romance for the political left, and a timely one. It’s a remarkable story because its actors are remarkable.”
“A fast-paced and tightly focused narrative which puts the Levellers centre stage in the English Revolution; essential reading for all those interested in history and radical politics”
“In his impressive new book John Rees sets out to return the Levellers to centre stage ... [his] research is splendid, his understanding of the period is admirable ... thoroughly entertaining, and thought-provoking.”
“A scrupulously researched, carefully told narrative, and a work of impressive scholarship.”
“Fluent, informed and passionate, [The Leveller Revolution] brings to life the remarkable story of this political group ... an excellent study”
“This book is not a work of political analysis alone. It is also a flesh-and-blood story, with personalities, episodes, dramas, confrontations, heroism and betrayals. In telling it so well, Rees retrieves the struggle of the Levellers from relative shade to the benefit of the revolutionary tradition as a whole.”
“The Leveller Revolution is of real importance. John Rees' highly readable account...puts the Levellers at the centre of the revolution, where they deserve to be.”
“A significant contribution to understanding how important radical ideas were to the creation of modern parliamentary rule.”
“Rees has written a substantial book that offers a detailed narrative history of the Levellers and their role in the events of the 1640s and 1650s... His archival work is thorough and the results are vivid.”
“An absorbing and fluent narrative of the political life of the foremost radical group to emerge during the English Revolution. The book is much needed.”