Radicalism in the 17th Century

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  • The nature and importance of radical ideas in the 17th Century
    • Religious radicalism
      • Nature
        • Freedom for individual judgement and morality
        • Religion was "a personal search for truth and no man could predict where truth and the knowledge of God might be found"
        • The overarching theme of the campaign was for religious toleration
        • Society is responsible for the removal of poverty and economic inequality
      • Importance
        • Godly laymen like Milton guiding and informing the people constituted a threat to the clerical monarchy
        • Their constant advocacy of religious liberty  led to bitter attacks by parliamentary conservatives, and also by the more cautious and conventional members of the sectarian Churches
    • Political radicalism
      • Nature
        • Many of the key figures used their own wrongs to create a dramatic focus for the general political issues that lay at the heart of the Leveller ideas
        • Lilburne published a pamphlet, 'England's Birthright Justified' attacking the Commons for infringing individual rights
        • The Leveller campaign organised marches, petitions and popular demonstrations - first sign of them being an organised movement with Lilburne as its leader
      • Importance
        • Lilburne's frequent imprisonment raised a case of a genuine issue about an individual's right to a fair trial, and Parliament's abuse of power in order to punish individuals
          • This led to the first publication of a coherent Leveller programme
            • It was based on popular sovereignty, individual rights including religious liberty, and free exercise of trade
    • Other key ideas
      • Educational reform combined Godly purpose with rational learning
      • The Ranters
        • Held two distinctive beliefs: antinomianism and pantheism
          • Antinomianism: development of predestination - who will be saved has already been decided
          • Pantheism: God is in every living thing
    • Key political figures
      • John Milton (1608 - 1674)
        • Poet Prophet
        • Cromwell's secretary
        • Identified with Puritan mainstream, but was too individual to accept the bonds of Presbyterian discipline.
        • Calvinist theology but never joined a gathered Church - labelled a Seeker
        • Divorced his Royalist wife - cutting all ties with the regime
      • John Lilburne (1615 - 1657)
        • Leveller leader
          • Dominated the movement and shaped it
          • Shown his natural leadership when opposed to Laud and the bishops in 1638
            • Because of this he was imprisoned in the Fleet
              • After he was released, he was then re-imprisoned in the Tower for infuriating the Lords, so missed out on the Putney debates
        • Warm-hearted, generous, passionately opposed to injustice of any kind.
        • Stubborn, argumentative and quick to take offence
        • Was originally allied with Cromwell but later became the target of Lilburne's attacks
      • William Walwyn (1600 - 1680)
        • Member of the Merchant Adventurers Company - prosperous
        • His radicalism stemmed from the application of his classical background, with its respect for human reason, to the questions about God and salvation that troubled his Puritan soul
        • He spoke of the right of laymen to preach, and complete religious toleration
        • In 1649 an attack upon him was published under the title of 'Walwyn's Wiles' by the Baptist and Congregation-al Churches
        • The most private of the Leveller leaders
        • Provided breadth of vision and philosophical justification for the new society that the Levellers sought to achieve
      • Gerrard Winstantley (1609 - 1676)
        • First-hand experience of the economic disruption caused by war
        • God lives in man, and the struggle between good and evil in the world happens in the human body
        • Formed the DIggers:


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