6 - The English Civil War and the Diggers
- merchant classes are finally powerful enough to challenge the monarchy which is holding back their new capitalist economy
- war waged by minorities, majority of country remained neutral or formed own army to protect themselves from looting (see Clubmen)
- only around 25,000 involved in direct fighting of war, most of them paid
- not one civil war but three wars involving England, Scotland and Ireland with foreign mercenaries
- censorship of printing press lifted in 1640 for ~50 years leading to masses of radical literature finding new audiences for the first time
- The Diggers print the first Christian socialist literature and set up communal groups occupying and working land
- 2nd big redistribution of land since Normans as Royalist estates are seized and sold off to merchants
songs, poems, quotes and stories
- The World Turned Upside Down
- The Diggers' Song
- 1642-1651 English Civil War
- 1649 2nd big capitalist land acquisition as Cromwell sells 1,677 Royalist Estates
- 1649 The Diggers
Now our merchant class have become a class of large land owners, through buying up church land sold to them by Henry VIII and through enclosure. Within a couple of generations they have gained enough power and money to directly challenge the authority of the monarchy which ultimately led to the civil war.
The English Civil War was not the war it is often portrayed to be. It was actually three wars not one, spanning nearly fifteen years and it was certainly not a war fought between the people and the monarchy.
It was a war fought between two small wealthy elites, the large landowning merchant class called parliamentarians and the royalist aristocracy. Perhaps best thought of as the one percent versus another one percent! Just to be clear there were royalist aristocrats who had got involved in merchant mischief and there were also large landowning merchants who had managed to buy their way into the aristocracy, so which side who was on was not always a clear cut thing.
Only a tiny percentage of the country was involved in direct fighting (for example more people took part in the peasants revolt than the english civil war and most of them were just from the two counties of essex and kent) …. in fact in many parts of the country people formed their own local militia to protect themselves from looting by both the royalists and the parliamentarians.
Many small landowners and landless labourers were convinced to fight unpaid against the royalists with promises that they were fighting for a fairer and more equal post war society. They were ultimately betrayed as soon as the dust settled.
The period also saw the second big redistribution of land since the Norman conquest, as thousands of large Royalist estates were seized by the parliamentarians and sold off to wealthy friends.
The Diggers were a group of people who felt betrayed by the failure of the parliamentarians to create a more equal society and used direct action occupying land which they farmed and lived on communally inspired by their egalitarian Christian values.
Much is know about the Diggers as during the civil war censorship of printing presses was considerably weaker than before, allowing their ideas to spread far beyond their direct communities.