John Lilburne and the Levellers: Reappraising the Roots of English Radicalism 400 Years On, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

John Lilburne and the Levellers

Reappraising the Roots of English Radicalism 400 Years On, 1st Edition

Edited by John Rees


158 pages

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John Lilburne (1615–1657), or 'Freeborn John' as he was called by the London crowd, was an important political agitator during the English Revolution. He was one of the leading figures in the Levellers, the short-lived but highly influential radical sect that called for law reform, religious tolerance, extended suffrage, the rights of freeborn Englishmen, and a new form of government that was answerable to the people and underpinned by a written constitution.

This edited book assesses the legacy of Lilburne and the Levellers 400 years after his birth, and features contributions by leading historians. They examine the life of Lilburne, who was often imprisoned and even tortured for his beliefs, and his role as an inspirational figure even in contemporary politics. They also assess his writings that fearlessly exposed the hypocrisy and self-serving corruption of those in power – whether King Charles I or Oliver Cromwell. They look at his contribution to political ideas, his role as a revolutionary leader, his personal and political relations with his wife Elizabeth, his exile in the Netherlands, his late decision to become a Quaker, and his reputation after his death. 

This collection will be of enormous interest to academics, researchers, and readers with an interest in the English Civil War, seventeenth-century history, and the contemporary legacy of radical political tradition.

Table of Contents



Chapter 1: Introduction: John Lilburne, the Levellers, and the English Revolution (John Rees)

Chapter 2: John Lilburne and the Citizenship of ‘Free-born Englishmen’ (Rachel Foxley)

Chapter 3: Lilburne, Toleration and the Civil State (Norah Carlin)  

Chapter 4: Women and the Levellers: Elizabeth and John Lilburne and their associates (Ann Hughes)  

Chapter 5: Lilburne and the law (Geoffrey Robertson)

Chapter 6: John Lilburne as a revolutionary leader (John Rees)

Chapter 7: Print and principles: John Lilburne, civil war radicalism and the Low Countries (Jason Peacey)

Chapter 8: The resurrection of John Lilburne, Quaker (Ariel Hessayon)

Chapter 9: Reborn John? The Eighteenth Century afterlife of John Lilburne (Edward Vallance)


About the Editor

John Rees is a visiting research fellow at Goldsmiths, University of London, UK. His doctoral research was on the Levellers and he was the organiser of the John Lilburne 400 conference in 2015. His previous publications include: The Algebra of Revolution (1998); Imperialism and Resistance (2006); Timelines: A Political History of the Modern World (2012); and The People's History of London (with Lindsey German) (2012). He is a member of the editorial board of Counterfire and a co-founder of the Stop the War Coalition.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics

The series Routledge Studies in Radical History and Politics has two areas of interest. Firstly, this series aims to publish books which focus on the history of movements of the radical left. ‘Movement of the radical left’ is here interpreted in its broadest sense as encompassing those past movements for radical change which operated in the mainstream political arena as with political parties, and past movements for change which operated more outside the mainstream as with millenarian movements, anarchist groups, utopian socialist communities, and trade unions. Secondly, this series aims to publish books which focus on more contemporary expressions of radical left-wing politics. Recent years have been witness to the emergence of a multitude of new radical movements adept at getting their voices in the public sphere. From those participating in the Arab Spring, the Occupy movement, community unionism, social media forums, independent media outlets, local voluntary organisations campaigning for progressive change, and so on, it seems to be the case that innovative networks of radicalism are being constructed in civil society that operate in different public forms.  

The series very much welcomes titles with a British focus, but is not limited to any particular national context or region. The series will encourage scholars who contribute to this series to draw on perspectives and insights from other disciplines.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / International Relations / General
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / General