Levellers into republicans?
in The Levellers
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This chapter examines the relationship between the Levellers in the 1640s (and their subsequent careers in the 1650s) and the classical republican authors of the 1650s. Contemporaries as well as historians have seen continuities between Levellers and republicans, and there are obvious similarities in their thought, as well as apparent continuities or linkages of personnel. However, classical republican language was an idiom which left few traces in the Levellers’ writings, and much 1650s republicanism had an anti-populist cast which did not sit easily with Leveller egalitarianism, and even enabled republicans such as Marchamont Nedham to attack the Levellers in print. When Leveller ideas and classical language or exempla were brought together, the fit was not always comfortable, and some of the most characteristic aspects of the republican thought might be modified. Two authors of the 1650s bear most comparison with the Levellers: Nedham, in his more populist republican phase, and John Streater; but it is in Streater’s writing that a genuine continuation of the spirit of Leveller writing, in classical language, is found.

The Levellers

Radical political thought in the English Revolution


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