WE, THE ENGLISH
‘England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality.’ George Orwell
Wat Tyler and the revolting peasants had paved the way
In the summer of 1381 Wat Tyler, as leader of the so-called “Peasants” Revolt,
Stepped out of the shadows, and when he did he was to rock the Anglo-Norman establishment to its core.
The peasants' fight was a call for liberty, justice and an end to the feudal system .
The English demanded unconditional emancipation and an end to feudal slavery.
They campaigned against a corrupt church and a corrupt state
Tyler said this: "There should be only one bishop in England
All the lands and tenements now held by them should be confiscated, and divided among the commons."
The Levellers succeeded the peasants during the English civil war (1642-1646)
The Levellers were committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law
The hallmark of Leveller thought was its emphasis on equal natural rights,
and their practice of reaching the public through pamphlets, poems, petitions and vocal appeals. Theirs is radicalism of a peculiarly English kind, in that it is also conservative and nostalgic.
A centre of Leveller activity was the Rosemary Branch in Islington,
Sprigs of rosemary that Levellers wore in their hats as a sign of identification.
This set the trend for English radicalism over the next 300 years:
John Wilkes in the C18, Henry Hunt emerged in 1819 to advocate for working class rights
He was the main speaker in Manchester at a meeting that ended with the Peterloo massacre (1819)
In the C20 George Orwell spoke for the English popular radical tradition: “In England patriotism takes different forms in different classes, but it runs like a connecting thread through nearly all of them. Only the Europeanized intelligentsia are really immune to it.”― George Orwell, England Your England.
Tony Benn said: "Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself."