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date: 24 July 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the political thought of the 1640s and 1650s through an examination of different understandings of liberty and how liberty could be secured, concentrating in particular on the writings of the Levellers, Sir Robert Filmer, Thomas Hobbes, Henry Parker, James Harrington, Gerrard Winstanley, and John Milton. It suggests that differing understandings of liberty help explain why political divisions in the late 1630s and early 1640s became so severe; and that divisions over how to realize civil liberty rather than over specific constitutional arrangements defined the varieties of political thought during the English Revolution. Although the Commonwealth established in 1649 might not have represented itself in explicitly republican terms it was promoted as a state in which its citizens would be free. In the eyes of some contemporaries, the failure to make good this promise was as much the fault of the English people as their governors.

Keywords: liberty, freedom, Levellers, Sir Robert Filmer, Thomas Hobbes, Henry Parker, James Harrington, Gerrard Winstanley, John Milton

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