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Diggers

Peter L. Larson


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The Diggers were one of many groups calling for reform in England in the widespread dissatisfaction and political unrest after the conclusion of the English Civil War and the execution of Charles I. Despite all of the sacrifices made fighting against the king and his aristocratic supporters, control of the country remained in the hands of those with wealth and power. In addition, the economy was in ruins, with many of the poor hungry and without employment. In this atmosphere in 1649–50 the Diggers sought to convert England into a Christian agrarian Utopia, advocating the abolition of the aristocracy and of private property through non-violent means. William Everard founded the movement in 1649, although leadership of the main group soon was taken over by Gerrard Winstanley, who also served as the movement's main mouthpiece. Winstanley published a number of works explaining the movement, drawing heavily upon the Bible and on the belief that England had been a free society before the Norman Conquest of 1066. For Winstanley and the Diggers, England would not be a free country again until the Norman Conquest had been undone and the poor had lands to work. They were called Diggers because their means of achieving this Christian agrarian Utopia was by settling upon vacant or overgrown common lands (lands over which all landowners in a village or manor shared rights for grazing, collecting ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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