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Encyclopedia > Gerrard Winstanley

Gerrard Winstanley (1609 - September 10, 1676) was an English LEZZ CED religious reformer and political activist during the Protectorate of Oliver Cromwell. Winstanley was aligned with the group known as the True Levellers for their beliefs, based upon Christian communism, and as the Diggers for their actions because they took over public lands and dug them over to plant crops. // Events April 4 – King of Spain signs an edit of expulsion of all moriscos from Spain April 9 – Spain recognizes Dutch independence May 23 - Official ratification of the Second Charter of Virginia. ... September 10 is the 253rd day of the year (254th in leap years). ... Events January 29 - Feodor III becomes Tsar of Russia First measurement of the speed of light, by Ole Rømer Bacons Rebellion Russo-Turkish Wars commence. ... The English are an ethnic group originating in the lowlands of Great Britain and are descendent primarily from the Anglo-Saxons, the Celts with minor influences from the Scandanavians and other groups. ... To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ... Oliver Cromwell (April 25, 1599–September 3, 1658) was an English military and political leader best known for making England a republic and leading the Commonwealth of England. ... For other meanings see Diggers (disambiguation) and Levellers (disambiguation) The Diggers were a group begun by Gerrard Winstanley in 1649 which called for a total destruction of the existing social order and replacement with a communistic and agrarian lifestyle based around the precepts of Christian Nationalism, wishing to rid England... Christian communism is a form of religious communism centered around Christianity. ... Woodcut from a Diggers document by William Everard The Diggers were a group, begun by Gerrard Winstanley as True Levellers in 1649, who became known as Diggers due to their activities. ...


Brief biography

Not a great deal is known about Gerrard Winstanley's early life. We do know that he was baptised in 1609 in Wigan, then part of the West Derby (hundred) of Lancashire, and that he was the son of an Edward Winstanley, mercer. His mother's identity remains unknown and he could have been born anywhere in the Parish of Wigan [1]. The parish of Wigan contained the townships of Abram, Aspull, Billinge-and-Winstanley, Dalton, Haigh, Hindley, Ince-in-Makerfield, Orrell, Pemberton, and Upholland, as well as Wigan itself [2]. The hundred of West Derby (sometimes known as West Derbyshire, not to be confused with Derbyshire, which has a district formerly called West Derbyshire) is an ancient subdivision of Lancashire, covering the south-west of the county. ... Lancashire is a county in North West England, bounded to the west by the Irish Sea. ... Abram is a village in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester, England. ... Statistics Population: Ordnance Survey OS grid reference: SD611082 Administration Metropolitan Borough: Wigan Metropolitan county: Greater Manchester Region: North West England Constituent country: England Sovereign state: United Kingdom Other Ceremonial county: Greater Manchester Historic county: Lancashire Services Police force: Greater Manchester Police Ambulance service: North West Post office and telephone Post... For other places with the same name, see Billinge. ... Haigh (pronounced Hay) is a village next to the village of Aspull, on the outskirts of Wigan in Lancashire, (Greater Manchester), United Kingdom. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Ince-in-Makerfield, usually known just as Ince is a town in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan in Greater Manchester, England. ... Orrell is an area and residential suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester, England. ... Pemberton is an area/ward and residential suburb in the Metropolitan Borough of Wigan, Greater Manchester, North West England, separated by the River Douglas from Wigan town centre. ... Upholland is a civil parish and small town in Lancashire, England, situated approximately three miles east of Skelmersdale and two miles west of Orrell. ...

He moved in 1630 to London, where he became an apprentice and ultimately, in 1638, a freeman of the Merchant tailors' Company or guild. The English Civil Wars, however, disrupted his business, and in 1643 he was made bankrupt. He had married Susan King, the daughter of London surgeon William King, in 1639 and William King helped Winstanley move to Cobham in Surrey, where he initially worked as a cowherd [3]. This article is about the capital of England and the United Kingdom. ... If youre looking for the TV show, see The Apprentice. ... A guild is an association of craftspeople in a particular trade. ... The English Civil War consisted of a series of armed conflicts and political machinations that took place between Parliamentarians (known as Roundheads) and Royalists (known as Cavaliers) between 1642 and 1651. ...

English Civil Wars

There were many factions at work during the period of the three related English civil wars. They included the Royalists, who supported King Charles I; the Parliamentary forces, called "Roundheads," who later emerged under the name of the New Model Army led by Oliver Cromwell; the Fifth Monarchy Men, who believed in the establishment of a heavenly theocracy on earth to be led by a returning Jesus as king of kings and lord of lords; the Agitators for political egalitarian reform of government, who were branded "Levellers" by their foes and who were led by Freeborn John Lilburne; and the Christian communists, who called themselves the True Levellers for their beliefs but who were branded "Diggers" because of their actions. The latter were led by Gerrard Winstanley. Whereas Lilburne sought to level the laws and maintain the right to the ownership of real property, Winstanley sought to level the ownership of real property itself, which is why Winstanley's followers called themselves "True Levellers". Prince Rupert of the Rhine Cavaliers was the name used by Parliamentarians for the Royalist supporters of King Charles I during the English Civil War (1642–1651). ... Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. ... A parliamentarian is a specialist in parliamentary procedure. ... The Roundheads was the nickname given to supporters of the Parliamentarian cause in the English Civil War. ... The New Model Army became the best known of the various Parliamentarian armies in the English Civil War. ... Oliver Cromwell (April 25, 1599–September 3, 1658) was an English military and political leader best known for making England a republic and leading the Commonwealth of England. ... The Fifth Monarchy Men were a radical Puritan politico-religious party active from 1649 to 1661 (the Interregnum) during Oliver Cromwells government. ... This article is about Jesus of Nazareth. ... The Levellers were a mid 17th century English political party, who came to prominence during the English Civil Wars. ... This article needs to be cleaned up to conform to a higher standard of quality. ... Christian communism is a form of religious communism centered around Christianity. ... For other meanings see Diggers (disambiguation) and Levellers (disambiguation) The Diggers were a group begun by Gerrard Winstanley in 1649 which called for a total destruction of the existing social order and replacement with a communistic and agrarian lifestyle based around the precepts of Christian Nationalism, wishing to rid England...

The New Law of Righteousness

Gerrard Winstanley published a tract called The New Law of Righteousness, which advocated a form of Christian communism. The basis of this communistic belief came from the Book of Acts, chapter two, verses 44 and 45, which speaks of common property. Winstanley argued that "in the beginning of time God made the earth. Not one word was spoken at the beginning that one branch of mankind should rule over another, but selfish imaginations did set up one man to teach and rule over another." Christian communism is a form of religious communism centered around Christianity. ... The Acts of the Apostles (Greek Praxeis Apostolon) is a book of the Bible, which now stands fifth in the New Testament. ...

Winstanley took as his basic texts the Biblical sacred history, with its affirmation that all men were descended from a common stock, and with its scepticism about the rulership of kings, voiced in the Books of Samuel; and the New Testament's affirmations that God was no respecter of persons, that there were no masters or slaves, Jews or Gentiles, male or female under the New Covenant. From these and similar texts, he reinterpreted Christian teaching as calling for what would later be called communism, and the abolition of property and aristocracy. This Gutenberg Bible is displayed by the United States Library of Congress. ... A sacred history is a retelling of history, in either a literary or oral format, with less emphasis on historical fact and more upon instilling faith, defining a group of believers, and/or explaining natural phenomenon. ... The Books of Samuel (Hebrew: Sefer Shmuel ספר שמואל), are part of the Tanakh (part of Judaisms Hebrew Bible) and also of the Old Testament (of Christianity). ... John 21:1 Jesus Appears to His Disciples--Alessandro Mantovani: the Vatican, Rome. ... Covenant, in its most general sense, is a solemn and bilateral promise to do or not do something specified. ... Communism is an ideology that seeks to establish a classless, stateless social organization, based upon common ownershipmovement]]. Early forms of human social organization have been described as primitive communism by Marxists. ... Property designates those things that are commonly recognized as being the possessions of a person or group. ... The Ancient Greek term aristocracy originally meant a system of government with rule by the best. The word is derived from two words, aristos meaning the best and kratein to rule. Aristocracies have most often been hereditary plutocracies (see below), where a sense of historical gravitas and noblesse oblige demands...

Winstanley wrote: "Seeing the common people of England by joynt consent of person and purse have caste out Charles our Norman oppressour, wee have by this victory recovered ourselves from under his Norman yoake." Charles I (19 November 1600 – 30 January 1649) was King of England, Scotland and Ireland from 27 March 1625 until his execution in 1649. ... The Norman Yoke is term that emerged in English Nationalist discourse in the mid-17th century. ...

His theme was rooted in ancient English radical thought. It went back at least to the days of the Peasants' Revolt (1381) led by Wat Tyler, because that is when a verse of the Lollard priest John Ball was circulated: The end of the revolt: Wat Tyler killed by Walworth while Richard II watches, and a second image of Richard addressing the crowd The Peasants Revolt, Tyler’s Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a... Events June 12 - Peasants Revolt: In England rebels arrive at Blackheath. ... Wat Tylers Death Walter Tyler, commonly known as Wat Tyler (died June 15, 1381) was the leader of the English Peasants Revolt of 1381. ... Lollardy or Lollardry was the political and religious movement of the Lollards in late 14th century and early 15th century England. ... John Ball (d. ...

When Adam delved and Eve span,
Who was then the gentleman [a]

Michelangelos Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel. ... Michelangelos Creation of Adam, from the Sistine Chapel. ... John Ball (d. ...

The Diggers

In 1649, Winstanley and his followers took over vacant or common lands in Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Kent, and Northamptonshire and began cultivating the land and distributing the crops without charge to their followers. Local landowners took fright from the Diggers' activities and in 1650 sent hired thugs to beat the Diggers and destroy their colony. Winstanley protested to the government, but to no avail, and the colony was abandoned. // Events January 30 - King Charles I of England, Scotland and Ireland is beheaded. ... Not to be confused with Surry. ... Buckinghamshire (abbreviated Bucks) is one of the home counties in South East England. ... Kent is a county in England, south-east of London. ... Northamptonshire (abbreviated Northants or Nhants) is a landlocked county in central England with a population of 629,676 (2001 census). ... // Events June 23 - Claimant King Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland arrives in Scotland, the only of the three Kingdoms that has accepted him as ruler. ...

After the failure of the Digger experiment in Surrey in 1650 Winstanley temporarily fled to Pirton in Hertfordshire where he took up employment as an estate steward for the mystic aristocrat Lady Eleanor Davies. This employment lasted less than a year after Davies accused Winstanley of mismanaging her property and Winstanley returned to Cobham.

Winstanley continued to advocate the redistribution of land. In 1652 he published another tract called The Law of Freedom in a Platform, in which he argued that the Christian basis for society is where property and wages are abolished. In keeping with Winstanley's adherence to biblical models, the tract envisages a communistic society structured on patriarchial lines. // Events April 6 - Dutch sailor Jan van Riebeeck establishes a resupply camp for the Dutch East India Company at the Cape of Good Hope, and founded Cape Town. ... Christianity is a monotheistic[1] religion centered on the life and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as presented in the New Testament. ...


By 1654 Winstanley was possibly assisting Edward Burrough, an early leader of the Quakers, later called the Society of Friends (see Friends House Library, London, William Caton MS 3 p.147). It is apparent that Winstanley remained a Quaker for the rest of his life as his death was noted in Quaker records (R.T. Vann 'From Radicalism to Quakerism: Gerrard Winstanley and Friends' Journal of the Friend's Historical Society, XLIX (1959-61) pp.41-6). However, his Quakerism may not have been very strong as he was involved in the government of his local parish church from 1659 onwards. He may have been buried in a Quaker cemetery. The Religious Society of Friends, commonly known as Quakers, or Friends, is a religious community founded in England in the 17th century. ...

Later life

In 1657 Winstanley and his wife Susan received a gift of property in Ham Manor, near Cobham from his father-in-law William King. This marked Winstanley's renovation in social status in his local community and he became waywarden of the parish of Cobham in 1659, overseer for the poor in 1660 and churchwarden in 1667-68. He was elected Chief Constable of Elmbridge in October 1671. Although these offices conflicted with Winstanley's apparent Quakerism, the Quakers had not yet become the quietist religion of later centuries.

When Susan died in around 1664 Winstanley was paid £50 for the land in Cobham by King. Winstanley returned to London trade, whilst retaining his connections in Surrey. In about 1665 he married his second wife Elizabeth Stanley and re-entered commerce as a corn chandler. Winstanley died in 1676 vexed by legal disputes concerning a small legacy owed to him in a will (see James Alsop, 'Gerrard Winstanley's Later Life' Past and Present no.82 (1979) pp.73-81 and J.D. Alsop., Gerrard Winstanley: Religion and Respectability’ Historical Journal Vol.28, No.3 (September 1985) pp.705-709)

Related Works

1975 saw the release of Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo's film Winstanley . [1] As with the duo's previous film, It Happened Here, it had taken several years to produce with a very low budget. Winstanley was based on a book by David Caute entitled "Comrade Jacob" [2] and was produced in a quasi-documentary style, with great attention to period detail- even to the point of only using breeds of animals which were known to exist at the time. [3] .pdf Kevin Brownlow (2 June 1938–) is a film historian, television documentary-maker, and author born in Crowborough, Sussex. ... Winstanley is the title of a film made in 1975 in the UK by Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo, based on the 1962 David Caute novel Comrade Jacob (ASIN: B0007E2A6Q). ... It Happened Here is a 1966 British film set during World War II, about the possible effects of a successful German invasion of the United Kingdom. ... David John Caute (born 16 December 1936) is a British author, journalist and historian. ...


From A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England:

  • "The power of enclosing land and owning property was brought into the creation by your ancestors by the sword; which first did murder their fellow creatures, men, and after plunder or steal away their land, and left this land successively to you, their children. And therefore, though you did not kill or thieve, yet you hold that cursed thing in your hand by the power of the sword; and so you justify the wicked deeds of your fathers, and that sin of your fathers shall be visited upon the head of you and your children to the third and fourth generation, and longer too, till your bloody and thieving power be rooted out of the land."

The song, "The World Turned Upside Down," by English folksinger Leon Rosselson, weaves many of Winstanley's own words into the lyrics.


  1. ^ Bradstock, Andrew (2000) Winstanley and the Diggers 1649 - 1999 Frank Cass, London p.20;
  2. ^ GENUKI
  3. ^ Alsop, JD (April 1989) Ethics in the Marketplace: Gerrard Winstanley's London Bankruptcy, 1643 Journal of British Studies no.28 p.97-119;

External links



  Results from FactBites:
Winstanley (5159 words)
But Winstanley himself was a Lancashire man; his father was a clothier in Wigan, quite a significant figure in his town, and Winstanley himself, Gerard, was apprenticed to a London clothier, which suggests that his father had ambitions for him to get out of the backward north.
Winstanley insisted that the common people are 'a part of the nation and, without exception, all sorts of people in the land are to have freedom not just the gentry and clergy.
For Winstanley, the introduction of private property (and he speaks especially of course of property in land) had been the fall of man. 'In the beginning of time, the great creator reason', (Winstanley's phrase for God, if he believed in a god) 'made the earth to be a common treasury' and all men were equal.
Winstanley, Gerrard Criticism and Essays (1041 words)
Winstanley rejected many traditional core doctrines, including belief in the historic Christ, the role of the clergy as mediators between God and worshippers, and the superiority of the Scriptures over the ability of every individual to experience and understand the sacred.
Critical debate surrounding Winstanley's works is heavily concerned with the relevance of his theology to his political agenda and with the apparent shift in Winstanley's thought from an emphasis on an internal theological motivation for reformation to a focus on external regulation of morality.
The commonwealth outlined by Winstanley was seen by its creator as morally superior to a monarchy because of its basis in principles of community and cooperation rather than on competition and individual acquisition.
  More results at FactBites »



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