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Imagining citizenship in the Levellers and Milton

Foxley, R. (2019) Imagining citizenship in the Levellers and Milton. In: Cuttica, C. and Peltonen, M. (eds.) Democracy and Anti-Democracy in Early Modern England 1603-1689. History of European Political and Constitutional Thought. Brill, Leiden. ISBN 9789004385986

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The Levellers did not advocate anything that they called 'democracy', but their robustly electoral proposed system of government took a representative form which was attacked by Marchamont Nedham as an anarchic democracy. Drawing attention to the instabilities in the attribution of 'democracy' in this period, this chapter argues that both the Levellers and John Milton were part of a broader set of debates which ultimately generated discussion about 'democracy', and examines their contrasting depictions of citizenship in the light of these debates. While Milton has sometimes been seen as owing a significant debt to the Levellers in his post-regicide political thought, this chapter argues that the Levellers and Milton deployed shared premises in slightly divergent ways, resulting in political visions which were ultimately very different. This in turn suggests that the use of the arguments or language associated with particular traditions or 'languages of political thought', such as rights-based or republican thought, did not constrain early modern authors' arguments as much as some have assumed. The vocabulary of gender, slavery, and social description in the Levellers and Milton all contribute to their characterisations of citizenship, and the Levellers' views remain unique in suggesting both a socially wide and a deep and participatory vision of citizenship.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Early Modern Research Centre (EMRC)
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > Language Text and Power
Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Humanities > History
ID Code:73021
Uncontrolled Keywords:Levellers; Milton; democracy; citizenship; republicanism; gender; slavery


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