The Civil War and its aftermath
in Literature and class
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Chapter 4 covers the period from the Civil War/War of Three Kingdoms to the Restoration. It argues that it is important that the Civil War is explored in terms of class conflict because of the varied and radical ideas that were generated, which either saw the war in terms of social strife, or, more frequently, saw it as an opportunity to eradicate such problems and establish or restore a more egalitarian order. The Levellers sought to establish new social and political principles that would facilitate equality. Gerard Winstanley and the Diggers attacked enclosure and the appropriation of the common land, hoping and believing that their social experiments would inaugurate a return to the values that had been lost since the Norman Conquest. Their Royalist opponents, Isaac Walton and Robert Herrick, shared the Diggers’ belief in the need for a common culture based on agrarian values, while urban radicals such as John Milton had a somewhat elastic representation of the ‘people’, one that elided thinking about class. John Bunyan was another critic of the commercialization of society and the disappearance of common rights and land. The chapter concludes with a comparison of the writings of John Wilmot, earl of Rochester, and Aphra Behn. While Rochester is relatively thoughtful about gender differences, he is blind to issues of class. Behn desires the equality of the sexes in her erotic poetry, but a re-establishment of a hierarchical social order in her novel, Oronooko.

Literature and class

From the Peasants' Revolt to the French Revolution

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