Author

John Cook

Date of Award

Spring 1986

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Department

History

Abstract

In the beginning of 1649 a group of landless people began to build houses and plant crops on the common lands at George Hill in Surrey, England. However these were not ordinary squatters for the Diggers also had a program which declared "freedom to the creation, and that the earth must be set free of the entanglements of lords and landlords, and that it shall become a common treasury to all, as it was first made and given" to men by God. (p.128) Sometime just before this the Diggers' leading spokesman, Gerrard Winstanley, had begun to claim "that many things were revealed to me which I never read in any books, nor heard from the mouth of any flesh."(p. 127) He became possessed by the spirit of his discoveries and disdained meals and company to sit and write "whole winter days from morning till night, [until] I was so stark with cold that I was forced to rise by degrees and hold by the table."(p. 155) Though he could not neglect any opportunity to express his ideas in words or writing, he soon found that some people could not bear to hear them, and that he had become "hated, reproached and oppressed on every side"(p. 140) for expressing the Word of God that he heard within himself. This harsh reaction only reinforced his sense of mission, for the Diggers counted it "a great happiness to be persecuted by the ..• successors of Judas."(p. 179) Undaunted, Winstanley felt his mind could not rest until he took action, for "words and writings were all nothing and must die."(p. 127) Though Winstanley was a biting social critic he probably would have been ignored in that turbulent era, if the Diggers had not actively attempted to establish their community of equality.

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