Restoring English Liberties! Anglo-Saxons, Magna Carta and the English Civil War
with Dr Andrew Lacey, (Independent Scholar)
at Sutton Hoo,  Saturday, 21st May 2016.

King John

How do you defend traditional English liberties and customs in the seventeenth-century? How do you defend radical change?

These were questions asked in the first half of the seventeenth-century by those who, on the one hand, wanted to limit the power of the king and those who, like the Levellers and Diggers, wanted radical social and constitutional change. One answer was to look to the English past for precedents and reformers created a mythological golden age of English liberty under the Anglo-Saxons which had been destroyed by the Norman Conquest and which they now sought to restore. In the same way, other reformers mythologized Magna Carta as the ‘foundation stone of English liberties’.

This day school will explore the idea of the ‘ancient constitution,’ the significance of Magna Carta, and the ways in which the Anglo-Saxons were re-imagined by seventeenth-century activists determined to restore English liberties.

Provisional Programme

09.50 – 10.15:          Coffee on arrival

10.15 – 11.15:          Monarchy and the Ancient Constitution

11.15 – 11.40:          Coffee break

11.40 – 12.40:          The Rights of Freeborn Englishmen – the Levellers

12.40 – 14.00:          Lunch break

14.00 – 14.50:           ‘Damming up the stinking waters of self-interest’ – the Diggers

14.50 – 15.10:          Tea break

15.10 – 16.00:          So what became of these ideas?

c.16.00:                   Thanks and Close

About Andrew Lacey

Andrew Lacey holds a postgraduate degree in Library and Information Studies and a doctorate for work on King Charles I. From 1988, he held posts as College Librarian at Trinity Hall, Cambridge, and Special Collections Librarian at the University of Leicester. He is a Tutor for the Continuing Education departments at both the University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford and his teaching, research and publications have included work on the English Civil War, 16th and 17th-century English and European history, the relationship between art and power, and 19th  and 20th-century British and European history. Andrew is currently working on two books, one on the Stuarts and one on the English Civil War.  Website:

Previous Feedback:

When asked “What was best about the day?” participants at a previous Andrew Lacey Study Day said:

  • The excellence of the speaker and additonal side information that was entertaining
  • Not too academic – good interchange of ideas
  • Understanding and making me interested in finding out more
  • Breezy presentation – light

Some Suggestions for Optional Background Reading

  • Aylmer, G.E. ed.   The Levellers and the English Revolution. Thames & Hudson, 1975.
  • Aylmer, G.E.         ‘The religion of Gerrard Winstanley’. Radical religion in the English Revolution. J.F. McGregor & B. Reay, eds. Oxford University Press, 1985, pp. 65-90.
  • Brailsford, H.N.    The Levellers and the English Revolution. Stanford University Press, 1961.
  • Burgess, G.            The politics of the ancient constitution : an introduction to English political thought. Macmillan, 1992.
  • Gregg, P.                Free-born John : a biography of John Lilburne. Dent, 1986.
  • Hill, C.   The world turned upside down : radical ideas during the English Revolution. Penguin, 1975.
  • Jendrysik, M. S.    Explaining the English Revolution : Hobbes and his contemporaries. Lexington Books, 2002. (Chapter 2: Gerrard Winstanley – the oppressions of covetousness.)
  • Mendle, M. ed.     The Putney Debates of 1647 : the Army, the Levellers and the English State. Cambridge University Press, 2001.
  • Pocock, J.G.A.       The ancient constitution and the feudal law : a study in English historical thought in the seventeenth century. Cambridge University Press, 1987.
  • Sharp, A. ed.         The English Levellers. Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Woodhouse, A. ed.              Puritanism and liberty –3rd ed. Dent, 1986.
  • Wootton, D.          ‘Leveller democracy and the Puritan Revolution’. The Cambridge history of political thought 1450-1700. J.H. Burns & M. Goldie, eds. Cambridge University Press, 1991, pp. 412-42.
  • Worden, B.            ‘English republicanism’. As above, pp. 443-78.