Brave community

The Digger Movement in the English Revolution

By John Gurney

Brave community


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  • eBook

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-6102-8
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £80.00
  • Published Date: April 2007
  • BIC Category: United Kingdom, Great Britain, Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions, History & Archaeology, European history, c 1500 onwards to present day, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain, Humanities / Revolutions, uprisings, rebellions, Humanities / British & Irish history, Humanities / Early modern history: c 1450/1500 to c 1700, History
  • Series: Politics, Culture and Society in Early Modern Britain


This is the first full-length, modern study of the Diggers or 'True Levellers', who were among the most remarkable of the radical groups to emerge during the English Revolution of 1640-60. It was in April 1649 that the Diggers, inspired by the teachings and writings of Gerrard Winstanley, began their occupation of waste land at St George's Hill in Surrey and called on all poor people to join them or follow their example. Acting at a time of unparalleled political change and heightened millenarian expectation, the Diggers believed that the establishment of an egalitarian, property-less society was imminent.

The book establishes the local origins of the Digger movement, and sets out to examine pre-civil war social relations and social tensions in the parish of Cobham - from where significant numbers of the Diggers came - and the impact of civil war in the local community. It provides a detailed account of the Surrey Digger settlements and of local reactions to the Diggers, and it explores the spread of Digger activities beyond Surrey. In chapters on the writings and career of Gerrard Winstanley, it seeks to offer a reinterpretation of one of the major thinkers of the English Revolution.

This book should be of interest to all those interested in England's mid-seventeenth-century revolution and in the history of radical movements.


This work attempts to place the Diggers in context on a number of different levels: locally, nationally, politically, and intellectually. The aim is to improve our comprehension of the Diggers in their time and place without having Winstanley dominate the account; this is a laudable change of focus, as a prolific radical theorist can skew the analysis.


1: Parish, community and social relations in Cobham
Family, occupation and social structure
Manor and parish
Population pressures
Landlords and tenants

Chapter 2: The parish of Cobham and the Civil War
The coming of war
Rural popular protest
The impact of war
The costs of war
Social conflict
The manor of Cobham during the Civil War

Chapter 3: Gerrard Winstanley
Family background
Winstanley's bankruptcy
The move to Cobham
Surrey politics

Chapter 4: Winstanley: the early writings
Towards the restoration of community

Chapter 5: The Diggers on St George's Hill
The first phase
Identifying the Diggers
St George's Hill

Chapter 6: The Diggers and the local community
Reactions to the Diggers in Walton
The Diggers in Cobham
The end of the Digger colony
Chapter 7: Aftermath


John Gurney is a Visiting Fellow in the School of Historical Studies, Newcastle University

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