"The present state of the old world is running up like parchment
in the fire." So declaimed Gerrard Winstanley, charismatic leader
of radical religious group the Diggers, in mid-seventeenth century
England: one of the most turbulent periods in that country's
history. As three civil wars divided and slaughtered families and
communities, as failing harvests and land reforms forced many to
the edge of starvation, and as longstanding institutions like the
House of Lords, the Established Church and even the monarchy were
unceremoniously dismantled, so a feverish sense of living on the
cusp of a new age gripped the nation. "Radical Religion in
Cromwell's England" is the first genuinely concise and accessible
history of the fascinating ideas and popular movements which
emerged during this volatile period. Names like the "Ranters,"
"Seekers," "Diggers," "Muggletonians" and "Levellers" convey
something of the exoticism of these associations, which although
loose-knit, and in some cases short-lived, impacted on every
stratum of society. Andrew Bradstock critically appraises each
group and its ideas, taking into account the context in which they
emerged, the factors which influenced them, and their significance
at the time and subsequently. The role of political, religious,
economic and military factors in shaping radical opinion is
explored in full, as is the neglected contribution of women to
these movements. Drawing on the author's long study of the topic,
"Radical Religion in Cromwell's England" brings a remarkable era to
vivid and colorful life.
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