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Contract, Covenant and Class-Consciousness: Gerrard Winstanley and the Broken Promises of the English Revolution

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This article explores the link between Winstanley's analysis of the broken promises of the English Revolution and his attempt to mobilize the class- consciousness of the labouring poor. It suggests that his communalist reading of the promises made by Parliament to the people of England, and especially his interpretation of the Solemn League and Covenant, stretched the boundaries of language and logic to breaking point. It argues, however, that Winstanley's peculiar interpretation of the Covenant was significant because it enabled him to incorporate a concrete empirical referent into his otherwise eschatological historical schema, and this he considered essential if the labouring poor were to be persuaded to take the risk of their lives and join the digging venture on George Hill.

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The Institute for Lifelong Learning, University of Sheffield, West Street, Sheffield, S1 4ET, Email:

Publication date: January 1, 2003


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