What effect did the 17th Century ‘Levellers’ have on our modern country?


ImageAs far as political movements go, The Levellers are one of the most remembered, right up there with the Luddites and the Abolitionists.

The Levellers were not a political party in the modern sense of the word, but instead were a bunch of disparate competing interests that emerged from the chaos and social upheavel of the English Civil War. In general, they believed in governance by the people (rather than kings), extended voting rights, equality before the law, and religious tolerance, all of which were expressed in their manifesto “An Agreement of the People”. They found particular support within the regiments of the New Model Army and the famous Putney Debates, followed by the infamous suppression of the Levellers Mutinies, were the highlights of this push for greater equality.

Our guise as The Earl of Manchester’s regiment pre-dates the New Model Army, however the regiment’s manpower was raised in the staunchly Puritan areas of Kent and Essex, and was then absorbed into the NMA in 1645, becoming (along with the rest of the Eastern Association) the backbone of this new, and very political, force.

Although their influence extended for only a brief period between the first and second Civil Wars, their calls for greater equality have resonated throughout the centuries, indeed with many Socialists claiming their cause for their own.

While we witness another example of the democratic process deciding on an issue of equality, this fascinating article at History Today examines the lasting effects of this brief, but fiery, political movement on modern Britain.


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