A common treasury for all: Gerrard Winstanley’s vision of utopia

Issue: 154

Martin Empson

Gerrard Winstanley was 40 years old when Charles I was executed.1 Had he been born 20 years before, or after, history would likely have been robbed of one of its most inspiring visionaries. Winstanley was the ideological driving force behind the Diggers, or as they preferred to be known, the True Levellers, a radical left-wing movement within the English Revolution. They were the product of a uniquely revolutionary period in English history. The Digger movement of 1648-1650 arose out of the juncture of three interlinked processes.

The first, and most important, was the transition from feudalism to capitalism. In rural areas this involved the development of a distinctly capitalist form of farming. This required the “primitive accumulation” of wealth through the enclosure and engrossment of land into larger farms and the destruction of historic “common” lands, such as the enclosure of commons or the drainage of fens. The transition to capitalism transformed the lives and communities of the rural population. Secondly there were a series of bad harvests. For the lower classes, the 1620s to 1650s were, according to the agrarian historian Peter Bowden, among the “most terrible” in English history.2 Finally, the execution of Charles I in January 1649 created a “political and ideological” revolutionary crisis, and was followed by a period of enormous political radicalisation and hopes for social transformation.3

Winstanley was one of the most eloquent critics of what was happening to the rural population. In his January 1649 pamphlet, The New Law of Righteousness, he complains at the way the rich parcel up the land and claim it for their own, and how they are unable to work it without the labour of others. He goes on to note the poverty that came about due to the resulting inefficient use of the land:

Divide England into three parts, scarce one part is manured: So that there is land enough to maintain all her children, and many die for want, or live under a heavy burden of povertie all their daies: And this miserie the poor people have brought upon themselves, by lifting up particular interest, by their labours.4

A group of Diggers, from Wellingborough in Northamptonshire, expressed similar sentiments in their 1650 declaration explaining why they had begun to farm on common and waste land. Their rebellion was born of hunger and desperation:

We have spent all we have, our trading is decayed, our wives and children cry for bread, our lives are a burden to us, divers of us having 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 in family, and we cannot get bread for one of them by our labour; rich men’s hearts are hardened, they will not give us if we beg at their doors; if we steal, the law will end our lives, divers of the poor are starved to death already, and it were better for us that are living to die by the sword then by famine. And now we consider that the earth is our mother, and that God hath given it to the children of men, and that the common and waste grounds belong to the poor, and that we have a right to the common ground both from the law of the land, reason and scriptures; and therefore we have begun to bestow our righteous labour upon it, and we shall trust the Spirit for a blessing upon our labour.5

Winstanley understood that the wealth of the rich came from the labour of others, something only possible because class society allowed the buying and selling of the earth, which was intended by God as a “common treasury”:

No man can be rich, but he must be rich either by his own labours, or by the labours of other men helping him. If a man have no help from his neighbour, he shall never gather an estate of hundreds and thousands a year. If other men help him to work, then are those riches his neighbours’ as well as his; for they may be the fruit of other men’s labours as well as his own.6

The king was gone. But for many events did not go far enough. There was no extension of the democratic franchise, no reforms and the hated tithes, a 10 percent tax paid by the whole population to support the church, remained. Winstanley had supported parliament against the king during the civil war, but now he broke with this strategy and looked to a furthering of the revolution through activity from below.

This is the context within which the Diggers themselves set up a colony at St George’s Hill in April of 1649. There they began to plough up the land and cultivate vegetables as well as set up homes. This action was more than simply the occupation of under-utilised waste land. It was the direct outcome of decades of struggle over land which included the slow encroachment onto waste and forest land by the landless as the population grew. In the context of agricultural shortages caused by the deprivations of the civil war, bad harvests, and the demobilisations of former soldiers now looking for work, it was a logical piece of action.

Winstanley and the Diggers believed in uniting theory and practice. In The True Levellers’ Standard Advanced, the statement issued from St George’s Hill and signed by Winstanley, William Everard and 13 other Diggers, they explain that they had been shown “by voice in trance and out of trance” to “Work together, eat bread together, declare this all abroad”. Now:

We have begun to declare it by action, in digging up the common land and casting in seed, that we may eat our bread together in righteousness. And every one that come to work shall eat the fruit of their own labours, one having as much freedom in the fruit of the earth as another.7

The Diggers believed in the abolition of private property. In this they went much further than the majority of others on the left during the revolutionary period. For instance, a Leveller pamphlet More Light Shining in Buckinghamshire appeared in March 1649, a few days before the digging began at St George’s Hill, which “called for equality of property on the same principle as the Agitators at Putney had called for equal electoral rights”.8 Because the Leveller pamphlet did not go as far as to call for the abolition of private property, Keith Thomas described this as “agrarian egalitarianism rather than communism”.9 As the Levellers put it “all men being alike privileged by birth, so all men were to enjoy the creatures alike without property one more than the other”.10

The ideas and actions of Winstanley’s Diggers at St George’s Hill and later Cobham, were unusually radical, but they were not unique. The historian Christopher Hill has suggested that St George’s Hill was only the “tip of the iceberg of True Levellerism”.11 In fact, similar camps were also set up at locations in Northamptonshire, Kent, Barnet, Enfield, Dunstable, Bosworth and Nottinghamshire, possibly in Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire as well as Winstanley’s in Surrey.12

The number of Digger camps is impressive, though we know very little about most of them. But they reflected wider discontent. The call for the enclosed land, or that which had been given to the crown to be returned for the use of the poor became a “standard radical demand”.13

The camps appeared at an unfortunate time for those who had just executed the king. No doubt they were hoping for a period of calm so that they could entrench their rule; instead discontent was growing, particularly within the army. Radicals were disappointed with events since Charles’s execution; hunger was an issue even in London and in April; Leveller mutinies took place in the army after soldiers refused to serve in Ireland as part of a military campaign organised by Oliver Cromwell. These spread to other regiments around the country and eventually Cromwell and Thomas Fairfax, the nominal commander of the New Model Army, executed leading Levellers at Burford on 14 May 1649.

The establishment of camps by radicals demanding the common ownership of land and the abolition of private property was unwelcome in the least, as it risked opening up a new anti-Parliament front. The immediate response by local landowners to the Diggers in Surrey was to use legal and physical means to stop them. Many of Winstanley’s subsequent writings detail the abuse of legal processes and the violent confrontations that he and his comrades experienced. For instance, Winstanley paraphrases a meeting that he claims took place at the White Lion Inn in Cobham where knights, gentlemen and rich landowners gathered in August 1649:

If the cause of the Diggers stand, we shall lose all our honour and titles, and we that have had the glory of the earth shall be of no more account than those slaves our servants…by our sword we will destroy our enemies, and do we not deserve the price of some of the diggers’ cows to pay us for this service.14

Winstanley wrote a series of political tracts defending the Diggers’ actions and expanding on his ideas. The far-reaching change that they’d expected was not forthcoming and this shines through in Digger publications. When several members of the St George’s Hill colony were arrested by landowners for trespass, the Diggers produced An Appeal to the House of Commons (July 1649). Their frustrations are evident:

For you swore in your National Covenant to endeavour a reformation according to the Word of God, which reformation is to restore us to that primitive freedom in the earth, in which the earth was first made and given to the sons of men, and that is to be a common treasure of livelihood to all, without working for hire or paying rent to any…

And seeing in particular you swore to endeavour the freedom, peace and safety of this people of England…you cannot say that the gentry and clergy were only comprehended, but without exception all sorts of people in the land are to have freedom, seeing all sorts have assisted you in person and purse, and the common people more especially, seeing their estates were weakest, and their misery in the wars the greatest.15

Later, in his The Law of Freedom published in November 1651, Winstanley would describe how those who had supported parliament had made sacrifices because they had been promised change and this was not forthcoming:

For is not this a common speech among the people? “We have parted with our estates, we have lost our friends in the wars, which we willingly gave up, because freedom was promised us; and now in the end we have new task-masters, and our old burdens increased: and though all sorts of people have taken an Engagement to cast out kingly power, yet kingly power remains in power still in the hands of those who have no more right to the earth than ourselves”.16

Thus in their Appeal to the House of Commons the Digger authors continue by demanding parliament frees the common and waste land from the landowners who had held them in “Norman tyranny” since the conquest.

The theme of the Norman yoke was a common symbol of the oppression of feudalism, supposedly originating from William the Conqueror in the aftermath of the Norman Conquest of 1066. In their appeal to parliament the Diggers argued that if “the gentry and clergy must have their Norman power established to them, and the common people, that are more considerable for number and necessities, be left still under the yoke, you will be proved the foolish builders”.17

But for Winstanley the problem was not simply the Norman yoke. This had only transferred the oppression of the English people from one group of landowners to another. He argued that William had taken both the enclosed land from the gentry together with the commons and waste lands from ordinary people and redistributed it to his soldiers. In other words, the time before the Normans wasn’t utopian. There were pre-existing inequalities in land ownership and use. Thus it wasn’t enough to get rid of the monarchy; something much more profound was needed. As Winstanley writes in a June 1649 letter to Fairfax and his Council of War:

The reformation that England now is to endeavour is not to remove the Norman yoke only and to bring us back to be governed by those laws that were before William the Conqueror came in…but…according to the Word of God, and this is the pure law of righteousness before the Fall.18

In January 1650 he wrote to parliament and the army highlighting the “branches of the Norman Conquest” that remained after Charles’s execution, the “power of the tithing priests over the tenths of our labours; and the power of lords of manors, holding the free use of the commons and waste land from the poor; and the intolerable oppression either of bad laws, or of bad judges corrupting good laws”.19

The New Law of Righteousness (January 1649) was Winstanley’s first full length polemic. His biographer John Gurney argues that it was a radical programme unlike anything previously seen that arose from the “optimism” of the period, but also widespread hunger and sickness in a war ravaged economy.20 In Winstanley’s vision, “Everyone and every thing would benefit directly from the rising power of righteousness: the spiritual light would be in every creature, and the whole creation would be purged and delivered from the curse”.21 James Holstun has called it “a communist programme for peacefully revolutionising English society”.22 Notably, the pamphlet itself was completed the day before Charles’s execution in the midst of the debates and struggles taking place over the way forward for the English Revolution. At its heart is a powerful statement of the need for fundamental change that uses biblical stories to reinforce the author’s arguments: “Let the common-People, that are the gatherings together of Israel from under that bondage, and that say the earth is ours, not mine, let them labour together, and eat bread together upon the Commons, Mountains, and Hils”.23 But Winstanley took this much further with his second pamphlet, The Law of Freedom (November 1651),24 which is nothing short of a blueprint for a communist society dominated by agrarian production. Winstanley said his ideas did not originate in books nor had he “heard [them] from the mouth of any flesh” but that a voice had told him to “declare…to all abroad” that “the earth should be made a common treasury”.25 Commenting on this Hill points out that in the 17th century someone would refer to a vision or revelation to describe sudden mental clarification. Since Winstanley did not believe in a personal god, he “can hardly have continued to rely on the promptings of an inner voice”.

Hill notes that the titles of the two pamphlets reveal something about how Winstanley’s ideas were changing: “righteousness to freedom marks a shift from religion to politics”, something very evident from the texts themselves.26 But there is a second difference. The Law of Freedom was published after the Surrey Digger colonies had been dispersed. In Winstanley’s appeal to Cromwell at the beginning of the pamphlet there is the desperation of a man whose only hope for radical change lies in the benevolence of the emerging military dictator, the only person with power to enact change. But although Cromwell first won national recognition as the defender of those commoners opposed to the draining of the Cambridgeshire Fens, he was now the defender of those who saw the enclosure of land as a way of improving agricultural profits and yields at the expense of those who historically farmed the land.

The Law of Freedom is an inspiring piece of visionary writing. In it Winstanley argues that Reason, his word for God, had created the world for the use of everyone, and that humanity had to return to this relationship:

The great creator Reason, made the earth to be a common treasury, to preserve beasts, birds, fishes, and man, the lord that was to govern this creation; for man had domination given to him, over the beasts, birds, and fishes; but not one word was spoken in the beginning, that one branch of mankind should rule over another.27

Winstanley’s programme in The Law of Freedom is extremely detailed, though he says it is “like a piece of timber rough hewed…the discreet workmen may take it and frame a handsome building out of it”.28 Central to his vision is the ending of private property and the common ownership of land and resources.

In the aftermath of the execution of the king, parliament declared England a “Commonwealth and free state”. Winstanley’s alternate vision for society, the “true commonwealth”, is based on the dominant form of production that existed in his time—small, patriarchal, family farms and household manufacturing. It was a profoundly democratic vision with officers elected annually. He believed in maximising participation in society—“many have their portions to obey, so many may have their turns to rule; and this will encourage all men to advance righteousness”. He contrasts this with behaviour when “money and riches bears all the sway in the ruler’s hearts”.29 As Brian Manning has pointed out, the Levellers and Diggers both believed that “power corrupts and leaders betray” and that for mass popular participation there had to be a decentralisation of power.30

As Winstanley put it, when officers “remain long in place…they will degenerate”. Individuals might go into public office for reasons of public spirit, but “continuing long in such a place where honours and greatness is coming in, they become selfish…as experience proves it true in these days”.31 In order to do this Winstanley proposes a system of annual elections to ensure that there is a turnover of representation and mass participation in the commonwealth.

But while Winstanley argued officers should be elected, not everyone was eligible to vote or stand. He excludes from standing those who have bought and sold land as “ignorant of commonwealth’s freedom” (as well as those who have problems such as drunkenness). And in an attempt to stop nepotism and dynasties arising, existing officers or overseers should not chose their own replacements.32 Additionally only those over 40 were eligible for election.

Winstanley proposed that there should be two types of officers, peacemakers or arbitrators to ensure laws were not broken and overseers whose role was “mainly industrial”. The overseers were there to protect family private property, to manage apprentices and to oversee the storehouses. Men over 60 acted as sort of roving officers, keeping an eye on the smooth running of things.33

Children should be educated “to ripen their wits…then be set to such trades, arts and sciences as their bodies and wits are capable of” until the age of 40. From 40 until 80, they shall be “freed from all labour and work” and it is from this “degree of mankind” that all officers and overseers should be chosen.34 In other words, only those experienced in life and work could be the community’s elected officials.

Here we also encounter some of the limitations of Winstanley’s vision, particularly the limited role of women. Winstanley makes it clear that all children should be educated—“no children in any parish to live in idleness”.35 But his use of the generalised “mankind” obscures the roles of men and women in his commonwealth. Reflecting the division of labour in households of his time, he explains that there should be a difference in education between the sexes, boys “trained up in learning and in trades…maids shall be trained up in reading, sewing, knitting, spinning of linen and woollen, music, and all other easy neat works, either for to furnish store-houses with linen and woollen cloth, or for the ornament of particular houses with needle-work”.36

Winstanley argues that everyone would have to help in the fields at harvests and seed planting.37 However, this participation in production does not give everyone the right to select officers, as he says explicitly later: “All men from twenty years of age upwards shall have freedom of voice to choose officers”.38 Women cannot vote, or stand for office.

Before we overly condemn Winstanley for this, we should note two things. First, women’s suffrage and democratic participation did not become a mainstay of the left’s vision until centuries after the English Revolution, with the mass involvement of women in the workforce. Even the Paris Commune of 1871 did not allow women the vote. Secondly, in other aspects of his thinking, Winstanley goes much further than any of his contemporary radicals on gender issues. For instance, he explicitly puts protection for women into the “Laws for marriage” within The Law of Freedom:

Every man and woman shall have the free liberty to marry whom they love…and neither birth nor portion shall hinder the match, for we are all of one blood, mankind; and for portion, the common store-houses are every man[’s] and maid’s portion.

If any man lie with a maid and beget a child, he shall marry her.

If a man lie with a woman forcibly, and she cry out and give no consent; if this be proved by two witnesses, or the man’s confession, he shall be put to death, and the woman let go free; it is robbery of a woman[’s] bodily freedom.

In addition, Winstanley argues for laws against a man violently taking away another man’s wife and if a man “forcibly” lies with another’s wife “as in the case when a maid is forced, the man shall be put to death”.

The church too would change in Winstanley’s commonwealth. No longer would clergy be imposed from outside, but parishes would choose their ministers:

He who is the chosen minister for that year to read shall not be the only man to make sermons or speeches; but everyone who hath any experience, and is able to speak of any art or language or of the nature of the heavens above or of the earth below, shall have free liberty to speak… Yet he who is the reader may have his liberty to speak too, but not to assume all the power to himself, as the proud and ignorant clergy have done, who have bewitched all the world by their subtle covetousness and pride.39

Winstanley even allows for speeches in other languages so that knowledge can be spread. This was important for “to know the secrets of nature is to know the works of god”. Organised religion is replaced by a secular education. “Kingly bondage” had spread ignorance, but when “commonwealth’s freedom is established” a new era of knowledge would arise.40

Marriage would no longer be part of the church but the choice of a couple:

When any man or woman are consented to live together in marriage, they shall acquaint all the overseers in their circuit therewith, and some other neighbours; and being all met together, the man shall declare by his own mouth before them all that he takes that woman to be his wife, and the woman shall say the same, and desire the overseers to be witnesses.41

In trying to describe a real society, Winstanley understood that there would be potential problems. People might behave badly, against the interests of the wider commonwealth, out of ignorance of malice. As we have seen, the death sentence was punishment for rape. Whipping could be imposed for breaking laws or assaulting an officer. The biblical maxim of “an eye for an eye” applied too; “he who strikes his neighbour shall be struck himself by the executioner, blow for blow, and shall lose eye for eye, tooth for tooth”.42

In addition to the death penalty, slavery or servitude would be a punishment for other major crimes. Those who “lose their freedom” would have to wear white clothes to distinguish them from the rest of the population, and do menial tasks such as carrying. But servitude was not permanent. At the end of their sentence slaves who gave “open testimony of their humility and diligence” and promised to observe the law in the future would be freed. Failing to do this meant a further period of servitude.

Some commentators on The Law of Freedom have argued that Winstanley’s vision is highly authoritarian and contrast this with earlier writings that reject such “state authority”. It is suggested that this is the result of “bitterness” at the failure of the Digger project and Winstanley’s conclusion that “discipline was needed to force the sinful to be free”. While it is true that Winstanley does include a great deal of detail about laws and punishment, this must be put into the context of Winstanley’s purpose in The Law of Freedom. Winstanley was trying to describe the functioning of a real life society. This involved real people who, in Winstanley’s understanding, experienced a personal “Fall” as well as the way private property led to greed, covetousness and envy. The Fall, for Winstanley, was “both a historical event and an anthropological constant”. The disappearance of private property, as well as landlords, lawyers and clergy, would lead to the removal of “inner bondages of the mind”, but people’s inherent imperfections would still exist, “until the spirit of Christ rise up in them again”.43 As Darren Webb has pointed out, “The Law of Freedom describes a system of punishment more extensive and severe than one finds anywhere else in Winstanley’s writings…it should be seen as a response to a question…what would a society in which everyone experiences the Fall actually look like?”44

Winstanley saw laws as crucial to the proper functioning of the commonwealth. He saw law as “a rule whereby man and other creatures are governed in their actions, for the preservation of the common peace”. This law is in two parts, rational and “unrational”, which strive for supremacy within individuals. Which one wins out helps determine society’s wider laws—“that power that begets the biggest number always rules as king and lord in the creature and in the creation, till the other part overtop him, even as light and darkness strive in day and night to succeed each other”. Since the time of Moses the “power of unreasonable covetousness and pride hath sometimes rise up and corrupted that traditional law”. But there is a more ancient law, which mankind must return to so that it “may be governed in peace and all burdens removed”.45

For Winstanley, the laws of England were needlessly complicated and written in obscure language. Lawyers interpreted the law in order to rob people, so justice was “a sore evil”.46 As an alternative, Winstanley offered “short and pithy laws” that are easily understood. These would be read out on each day of rest, so that everyone would be knowledgeable about the law, for if the people are ignorant of good laws “it would be bad for the commonwealth as if there were no laws at all”.47 It is worth noting that Winstanley focuses his laws on “institutionalising reconciliation, not punishment” and punishment was “restrained” when compared to his own time.48

A national parliament would sit over society, the “highest court of equity”, with representatives from around the country elected annually. Winstanley uses the analogy of the father tenderly nurturing his family to explain the role of parliament in the commonwealth. But parliament would also have to organise to protect the country, to arrange negotiations and trade with other countries and, crucially, to abolish old laws and enact new ones.

Changes would be subject to endorsement by the people, who could also petition for new laws.49 Major decisions of parliament, such as raising an army for war or to protect the peace, would have to be agreed on by the people. In this case, parliament must first “acquaint the people plainly with the cause of the war, and to shew them the danger of such an invasion or insurrection; and so from that cause require their assistance in person for the preservation of the laws, liberties and peace of the commonwealth”.50

Much of Winstanley’s vision for the organisation of the commonwealth arises out of the limitations of his own society; the obscure laws that serve the interests of the wealthy, the lack of democratic participation by ordinary people in the functioning of their society and their church and so on.

All of this was to be based on the family unit of production. Winstanley argued for the abolishment of private property and the common ownership of land and other key institutions. But in answer to the rhetorical question as to whether everything should be the property of everyone he answers:

No. Though the earth and storehouses be common to every family, yet every family shall live apart as they do; and every man’s house, wife, children and furniture for ornament of his house, or anything which he hath fetched in from the store-houses, or provide for the necessary use of his family, is all a property to that family, for the peace thereof.51

Here Winstanley no doubt has an eye on critics who would argue that in a communist society everyone would lose their possessions. But he also envisaged the commonwealth as providing for everyone’s needs: “For there will be plenty of all earthly commodities, with less labour and trouble than now it is under monarchy. There will be no want, for every man may keep as plentiful a house as he will, and never run into debt, for common stock pays for all”.52

Each household would supply its own needs and send any surplus food or goods to the storehouses, where everyone could go and stock up on what they needed. The storehouses would be in two types—general ones for raw materials and food in bulk, and specific ones for manufactured items such as “gloves, shoes, linen and woollen cloth in smaller parcels”.53 This “Communism of Distribution” is at the core of Winstanley’s vision and he explores how it functions in great detail. It would have been an attractive vision for hungry people who had little but saw great amounts of wealth owned by a few individuals.

Winstanley’s commonwealth was a world without buying, selling or private ownership of the Earth. It was one where everyone could satisfy their needs and those of their family by visiting a storehouse. Gold and silver would be used to make dishes and ornaments as there would be no need for money and rulers and laws would be democratically decided upon. That Winstanley produced it when he did is why James Holstun can describe the period as simultaneously “the first capitalist and anti-capitalist revolution”.54

But the establishment of the commonwealth would do more than simply change people’s economic circumstances; it would also change them. As the Diggers had optimistically written in April 1649 as they commenced their labours on St George’s Hill:

Once the earth becomes a common treasury again, as it must…and mankind must have the law of righteousness once more writ in his heart, and all must be made of one heart and one mind: Then this enmity in all lands will cease, for none shall dare to seek a dominion over others, neither shall any dare to kill another, nor desire more of the earth than another.55

Tragically, the Diggers were defeated, and Winstanley spent the rest of his life in obscurity and disappointment. His writings came in a very short burst of just a few years—he rose with the English Revolution and went down with its decline. Cromwell’s Protectorate entrenched itself on the back of the destruction of the radical movements. This opened the door to the transformation of English society in the interests of the accumulation of capital. Winstanley’s revolutionary dream ended because it could not be tolerated by the wealthy. When the setting up of colonies and trying to live by example failed, Winstanley’s only hope was an appeal to Cromwell himself. There was no other agency to bring about change. Winstanley could only, in the words of the Diggers’ song, hope to “conquer them by love”.

Cromwell did not want to see the abolishment of private property; he wanted to ensure stability for the rich landowners. It would be another century or so before the development of capitalism created new gravediggers who could bring about the sort of social transformation that Winstanley dreamed of. Yet his vision, for all its limitations, is one that continues to inspire almost 400 years later: “But alas, oppression is a great tree still, and keeps off the sun of freedom from the poor commons still; he hath many branches and great roots which must be grubbed up, before everyone can sing Sion’s songs in peace”.56

Martin Empson is the author of Land and Labour: Marxism, Ecology and Human History. He is currently writing a history of rural class struggle in England.


1 This article will not look in detail at Winstanley’s life. An excellent account is Gurney, 2013. Also useful is Christopher Hill’s introduction to a selection of Winstanley’s writings—Winstanley, 1973. Lewis H Beren’s 1906 book is dated, but remains a useful introduction to the Diggers and has been republished recently—Berens, 2007. An interesting piece on the ecological core to Winstanley’s thought is Johnson, 2013. I’d like to record my thanks to Richard Bradbury for his comments on drafts of this article.

2 Quoted in Holstun, 2002, p378.

3 Holstun, 2002, p378.

4 Sabine, 1941, p200. Quotes from Winstanley are in the original spelling.

5 Quoted in Holstun, 2002, p373.

6 Winstanley, 1973, p287.

7 Winstanley, 1973, p89.

8 Winstanley, 1973, pp29-30.

9 Thomas, 1969, p60.

10 Quoted in Hill, 1975, p117.

11 Winstanley, 1973, p30.

12 Thomas, 1969, p59.

13 Gurney, 2013, pp37-38.

14 Winstanley, 1973, p143. Winstanley here refers to his claim that his cows had been stolen from him illegally by those who wanted to destroy the Diggers’ camps.

15 Winstanley, 1973, p116.

16 Winstanley claimed he had written it two years previously—Winstanley, 1973, p282. See also the discussion in Webb, 2004, p209, which concludes that Winstanley wrote the bulk of The Law of Freedom in the autumn of 1649.

17 Winstanley, 1973, p119.

18 Winstanley, 1973, p39.

19 Winstanley, 1973, p166.

20 Gurney, 2013, p37.

21 Gurney, 2013, p40.

22 Holstun, 2002, p376.

23 Sabine, 1941, pp195-196.

24 Winstanley claimed that it was written two years previously.

25 Winstanley, 1973, p24.

26 Hill, 1996, p287. There was a shift, but not a break as some suggest. See Webb, 2004, who emphasises the continuity in Winstanley’s writing, particularly between The New Law of Righteousness and The Law of Freedom.

27 Winstanley, 1973, p77.

28 Winstanley, 1973, p285.

29 Winstanley, 1973, p321.

30 Manning, 1999, p41.

31 Winstanley, 1973, p319.

32 Winstanley, 1973, p330.

33 Sabine, 1941, p62.

34 Winstanley, 1973, p362.

35 Winstanley, 1973, p361.

36 Winstanley, 1973, p365.

37 Winstanley, 1973, p381.

38 Winstanley, 1973, p385.

39 Winstanley, 1973, p347.

40 Winstanley, 1973, pp347-348.

41 Winstanley, 1973, p388. Note that this approach to marriage was not that uncommon in the Early Modern period; see for instance Hill, 1996, particularly pp201-205.

42 Winstanley, 1973, p279.

43 Webb, 2004, pp206 and 208.

44 Webb, 2004, p208.

45 Winstanley, 1973, pp374-377.

46 Winstanley, 1973, p378.

47 Winstanley, 1973, p345.

48 Webb, 2004, p205.

49 Winstanley, 1973, pp338-341.

50 Winstanley, 1973, p344.

51 Winstanley, 1973, p288.

52 Winstanley, 1973, p289.

53 Winstanley, 1973, pp369-370.

54 Holstun, 2002, pix.

55 Winstanley, 1973, p80.

56 Winstanley, 1973, p166.


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Gurney, John, 2013, Gerrard Winstanley: The Digger’s Life and Legacy (Pluto).

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