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Books Editorial

levellersbook.jpg The Leveller Revolution

John Rees, Verso

The Levellers rose to prominence during the English Civil War of 1642-1651 and while opposed to the common ownership of land (that’ll be the Diggers you need for that), they still believed in the sovereignty of rule by people, extended suffrage, religious tolerance and equality before the law. A disparate group, they didn’t unite behind one manifesto (they preferred a blizzard of pamphlets), but were key figures in the turbulent years that led up to, and beyond, the execution of Charles I. John Rees’ fine account plonks us into the febrile atmosphere in London during the period, where taverns would thrum with revolutionary talk, and back rooms cranked out illegal missives to be distributed among the populace who were increasingly turning away from monarchical rule. He brings to life the key figures of the period from Freeborn John Lilburn to pamphleteer extraordinaire Richard Overton, and details the role ordinary people played in this pivotal moment in history, as well the Putney debates, in which Lilburne furiously argued with Oliver Cromwell over the future of English democracy, arguments which still echo down through the ages.