The Diggers

Whenever war occurs a food shortage is never far behind and the price of a potato was simply sky high.

Between the clashing of blades and the firing of muskets, in April 1649 as the Civil War Period came to a close, a small commutiny calling themselves the True Levellers came together.

The True Levellers were led by George Winstanley who said, “True freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth”

They were levelling the soil of the land and society with it.

This literal use of making the natural earth equal to all gave the True Levellers their name and then their subsequent nickname, the Diggers, stuck.

The community began planting vegtables on St George”s Hill in Surrey, not far from South London. The vegetables were planted in common ground, meaning that this ground was open for public use and therefore no crime was being committed.

However, in these revolutionary times as well as vegtables, the True Levellers wanted to also plant the seed of an idea in the mind of the people.

The seed of an idea was that people up and down the country could tear down the enclosures which seperated public from private land and grow vegtables wherever they wanted

A radical upheaval of the social order

To spread their message, Winstanley and a group of 14 others published a pamphlet entitled, True Leveller Standard Advance.

The pamphlet encouraged the local population to come and work for them, promising meat and drink for all.

By now the True Levellers were perceived as dissenters and the name Diggers began to be used by those for and against the widening movement.

The spades of Diggers were now breaking soil in several nearby sites to St George’s Hill and the local landowners were getting scared.

These local landowners paid gangs to attack the Diggers, vandalize their property and in general terrorize them. They also took legal action against certain Diggers and had them imprisoned.

However, the community of Diggers stood firm for a while , but eventually the army was brought-in to end them.

Wanting peaceful revolution and not more bloody warfare the Diggers disbanded without violence.

Although their history may have been brief their legacy is long. Repeatedly many movements have been formed through the years that have sought social equality from the soil of the earth upwards.

And these movements digging today have their roots with the first spades of the Diggers over 350 ago.
 

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