Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

The English Levellers

Academic journal article The Seventeenth Century

The English Levellers

Article excerpt

Andrew Sharp (ed.), The English Levellers, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998, pp. xxv + 223, hb. £37.50 ($59.95), pb. £13.95 ($19.95), ISBN: 0521624029

One of the biggest challenges in putting together a short collection of Leveller writings must be deciding what to include and what to leave out. Sharp has chosen thirteen texts - some well-known, others less familiar - all loosely related to the theme of the Levellers and democracy, an issue he explores in his introduction. The selections are suitably annotated (though Sharp perhaps overdoes the footnotes, using them to explain words which most readers would understand), and the volume includes a helpful chronological table, constructive bibliographical note, and informative appendix of select biographies. This will be a useful student text, and is priced so that undergraduates should be able to afford it. The volume has its limitations, however. Given that Sharp reminds us that Leveller ideas resurfaced briefly in the late-1650s and again in the 1680s (indeed his introduction starts with the speech of the Monmouth rebel and erstwhile Leveller, Richard Rumbold, from the scaffold in 1685), it would have been helpful to have included some examples of later Leveller texts, to help us see how Leveller ideas subsequently became transformed in very different political contexts - especially, one might add, since one of the aims of the series in which this book appears is to broaden our notion of what constitutes the 'conventional canon'. …

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