History and Historiography

When another England seemed possible

by Paul Cudenec

I am very honoured to have contributed an article to the second issue of the beautifully-produced and highly interesting Parisian “counter-history” journal brasero which is being launched on Friday November 18 2022 (the first issue was reviewed in English here).

Entitled ‘For the Law of Nature: the Diggers and their heretical uprising’, my piece looks at the group of radicals who reclaimed a piece of land in Surrey during the 17th century English Revolution.

This small revolt, which still carries great historical resonance, took place in the Spring of 1649 when, as I write, “the sap of revolutionary hope was rising with the greenery of the English countryside”.

After eight years of a bloody civil war between parliament and monarchy, which left more than 80,000 dead, King Charles I had been beheaded in front of the London crowds. A republic was declared and Oliver Cromwell became head of state.

It must have felt at the time as if this was at last the victory of the people, the glorious culmination of the deeply-rooted English tradition of popular rebellions, incarnated by the legend of Robin Hood, the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 or that of Jack Cade in 1450.

This revolutionary spirit had its own name and its own references: it was the Good Old Cause, whose aim was to “win back” ancient English freedom, which was regarded as having been stolen from the people by the colonising invasion of the 11th century Normans led by William the Conqueror, whose successors were still on the throne 600 years later.


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