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 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 seventeenth-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 scrupulously researched, carefully told narrative, and a work of impressive scholarship.”
“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.”