Gerrard Winstanley

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Winstanley, Gerrard


Born 1609, in Wigan, Lancashire; died after 1652. English Utopian socialist and ideologist of the Diggers, the extreme left wing of revolutionary democracy in the English Civil War.

In 1630, Winstanley moved to London, where he worked as an apprentice to a company of clothing merchants and later became a company partner. He subsequently went bankrupt and worked for hire in Surrey about the year 1643. His career as a publicist began in the mid-1640’s. Using mystical arguments, Winstanley expounded his social doctrine in numerous pamphlets, beginning with The New Law of Righteousness (1649). He proposed “the law of social righteousness, ” offered proof of the absolute necessity for a democratic agrarian revolution, and advanced a design for a “free republic.” His new law of righteousness was to be a classless society, free of private property, money, buying and selling, work for hire, and material inequality. Winstanley believed that establishment of such an order would have to be preceded by a democratic agrarian revolution, which would guarantee the right of the poor to cultivate common wasteland rent free and which would provide for the replacement of copyhold by freehold. He considered the agrarian revolution an indispensable precondition for the victory of a republic over the monarchy.

In 1649, Winstanley led the Diggers’ revolt, which marked the culmination of the revolutionary-democratic movement in midnth-century England. Near the town of Cobham he founded his colony of Diggers, which was the first communist experiment in modern history. After the rout of the colony in the spring of 1650, Winstanley wrote his ideological testament, The Law of Freedom in a Platform (1652), in which he described a communist Utopia and showed for the first time the relationship between the social ideals of a communist society and the aspirations of the poor. In the testament he defined individual freedom as, above all, freedom from want.


The Works of Gerrard Winstanley. Ithaca, N.Y., 1941.
In Russian translation:
Izbr. pamflety. Moscow-Leningrad, 1950.


Stal’nyi, V. “Utopiia Dzh. Uinstenli.” Istoricheskii zhurnal, 1942. nos. 3–4.
Barg, M. A. Narodnye nizy v angliiskoi revoliutsii XVII veka. Moscow, 1967. (Contains bibliography.)
Saprykin, Iu. M. Sotsial’no-politicheskie vzgliady angliiskogo krest’-ianstva v XIV–XVII vv. Moscow, 1972.


References in periodicals archive ?
He goes on to espouse a economic system by Gerrard Winstanley, who advocated that wages and property be abolished and a communist model rule in it's place.
CHRISTOPHER Hitchens belongs to the old English tradition of pamphleteers and rabble- rousers going back to Gerrard Winstanley and Daniel Defoe.
Other omissions include such interesting figures as Gerrard Winstanley, Jacob Bauthumley, and Laurence Clarkson, whose annihilationism had come within the purview of Burns (and Christopher Hill).
But I will restrict myself to two of my favourite examples: Thomas Muntzer and the Peasants' Revolt in 16th-century Germany and Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers from 17th-century England.
A little naive, especially in terms of politics, with a fondness for both writing manifestos and reading the Bible, Gerrard Winstanley was nothing less than one of the first Christian communists in the true sense of the term.
377] and, not surprisingly, uses the texts of Gerrard Winstanley to make his case.
Gerrard Winstanley led which radical Puritan group in 1649?
So the repeated claim by hostile propagandists that activists like the Leveller John Lilburne or the Digger Gerrard Winstanley were "subverters of well-settled States" (Faerie Leveller, 3) is not merely an accusation of public mischief, of threatening to level enclosures or otherwise infringe upon another's property rights, but one of attempting to dismantle the social order by unnaturally removing all distinctions between men.
A few years later, in A Watch-Word to the City of London, a typically spirited response to his arrest and those of two fellow Diggers on a charge of trespassing, Gerrard Winstanley clarified the potentially radical implications of Rainborough's query.
The secular ideas of Gerrard Winstanley - on the continuance of the Norman 'yoke' for instance - are discussed in detail.