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Why did Britain become a republic?

Case study 2: New government - Source 1

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A report on the arrest of some Levellers, 29 March 1649

(Catalogue ref: SP 25/62, pp.134-5)

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SP25/62/134; report on the arrest of Levellers, 1649

What is this source?

This is a report from a committee of MPs to Parliament. It explains their actions against the leaders of the Levellers.


What’s the background to this source?

Before the war of the 1640s it was difficult and dangerous to come up with new ideas and try to publish them. However, during the Civil War censorship was not strongly enforced. Many political groups emerged with new ideas at this time. One of the most radical (extreme) groups was the Levellers.


It's worth knowing that...

This document was published soon after the king was executed in 1649, so England was a republic. Many radical thinkers like the Levellers hoped that the new England would be a better place. As this source shows, their hopes were not really fulfilled.


Your turn: What can we learn from this source?

  1. Who are arrested?
  2. Why were they arrested?
  3. What does this tell you about society at the time?
  4. What was the title of the book Lilburne was reading from?
  5. Try and guess what kind of things the book was saying. Use the notes and the key people & events section to help you.