Friday, 14 May 2010

Levellers Association: history for turbulent times

The health of our parliamentary democracy has - you may have noticed - been in the news over the last week. It is timely, therefore, that tomorrow is Levellers Day, celebrating the great revolutionary democrats of the 1640s. One of the great strengths of Paul Foot's marvellous book 'The Vote' is how he locates the fierce debates of that time in a longer struggle for democracy and a more equal and just society.

What Foot identified - following historians like Christopher Hill - was the way democracy was in conflict with vested economic interests from the earliest days of capitalist society. His book is, to a great extent, an elucidation of the ways in which political and economic power are related - and, crucially, of how the movements for democratic reform and social and economic change are intertwined too.

It really started with the Levellers and other groups in the English Revolution. They wouldn't settle for extremely limited, token 'democracy', or for the maintenance of class power and privilege. Their passion and commitment serve as insipiration today.

It is welcome, therefore, to note the appeal for founding a Levellers Association. Here is the call for sponsors.

'We are currently organising the launch of a Levellers Association which would aim to popularise the history and heritage of the Levellers and other radicals in the English Revolution.

It would seek to involve students, researchers and academics with amateur historians, 17th century re-enactors, publishers, artists, battlefield preservation societies, trade unionists, and campaigners who want to deepen our knowledge of the English Revolution.

The project is at an early stage but current sponsors include: Tony Benn, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Geoffrey Robertson QC (author of The Tyrannicide Brief), Jim Holstun (author of Ehud's Dagger), Ann Hughes (Professor of Early Modern History at Keele University), Neil Faulkner (editor of Military Times), Andrew Murray (Director of Communications for Unite the Union), Dr John Gurney (Visiting Fellow, Newcastle University), Caryl Churchill (playwright), Rev. Hammer (songwriter), Dr Rachel Foxley (University of Reading), Philip Baker (Senior Research Officer at the Centre for Metropolitan History), Dr Ariel Hessayon (Goldsmiths, University of London).

This letter is being circulated on history, academic, trade union and activists lists in the hope of widening he sponsorship base of the project. Please do let us know if you would like to become a sponsor of the Levellers Association.

We are aiming to hold an initial organising meeting on Saturday 22nd May, at 1pm in Room B104, the School of Oriental and African Studies Thornhaugh Street, London WC1H 0XG (nearest tube Russell Square). If you would like to attend or if you have any ideas that you would like discussed at the meeting please do let us know:

We hope that people can help us establish a website, newsletter, conferences, education packs, publications, artistic events and so on...but there is absolutely no obligation on individual sponsors to do any of this.

Thanks for taking the time to look at this.

Best wishes,
John Rees (Goldsmiths College), Ben Craggs (Goldsmiths College), Tehmeena Bax (Queen Mary College)'


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