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Diggers or True Levellers

Diggers or True Levellers

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Published by: Charles Cobalt Forsythe on Jun 22, 2010
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05/25/2012

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Diggers All
The Diggers were an English group, begun by GerrardWinstanley as True Levellers in 1649, who became known as
"Diggers" 
due to their activities.Their original name came from their belief in economic equality based upon a specific passage in the Book of Acts. The Diggersattempted to reform (by "
levelling 
" real property) the existingsocial order with an agrarian lifestyle based upon their ideas for the creation of small egalitarian rural communities. They wereone of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emergedaround this time.
Historical background
1649 was a time of great social unrest in England. TheParliamentary victors of the First English Civil War failed tonegotiate a constitutional settlement with the defeated KingCharles I tried and executed him. What now?Government was a new body called the Council of State,dominated by the Army.Many people were active in politics, suggesting alternative forms of government ranging from Royalists, whowished to place King Charles II on the throne; men like Oliver Cromwell, who wished to govern with a Parliamentvoted in by an electorate based on property;
 
agitators called Levellers who wanted parliamentary government based on an electorate of every male head of a household; Fifth Monarchy Men, who advocated a theocracy; andthe Diggers led by Winstanley, who advocated a more radical solution.
Theory
The Diggers' beliefs were informed by Gerrard Winstanley's writings, which encompassed a worldview thatenvisioned an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, acknowledging the inherent connections between people and their surroundings.The Diggers argued, the "
common people of England 
" had been robbed of their birthrights and exploited by aforeign ruling class.
Democratic and anarchist aspect of the Diggers' beliefs.
They contended that if only the common people of England would form themselves into self-supportingcommunes, there would be no place in such a society for the ruling classes.
Practice
 St. George's Hill, Weybridge, Surrey
The Council of State received a letter in April 1649 reporting that several individuals had begun to plantvegetables in common land on Saint George's Hill, Weybridge near Cobham, Surrey at a time when food pricesreached an all-time high. Sanders reported that they had invited "
all to come in and help them, and promise themmeat, drink, and clothes.
" Their intentions were to pull down all enclosures and cause the local populace to comeand work with them. They claimed that their number would be several thousand within ten days. "
 It is feared theyhave some design in hand.
" In the same month, the Diggers issued their most famous pamphlet and manifesto,called "
The True Levellers Standard Advanced 
."At the behest of the local landowners, the commander of the New Model Army, Sir Thomas Fairfax, duly arrivedwith his troops and interviewed Winstanley and another prominent member of the Diggers, William Everard.

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