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Reliving Lilburne

JEREMY CORBYN is keen to remember a civil war icon

THE John Lilburne 400th Anniversary Conference is an exciting opportunity to hear leading historians of the English revolution, political activists, film makers and writers present their unique and engaging take on “Freeborn John,” a man of his age and ours.

As many of our civil liberties are under threat in the 21st century, now is exactly the right time to recall the man who fought so hard to establish so many of them.

The enormous power that Oliver Cromwell bestowed upon himself at the end of the civil war was seen by Lilburne and others as the replacement of a monarchical power with a parliamentary one. Lilburne wanted to see the real flowering of ideas and a fundamental reform of the whole way England and Wales were governed.

He defended the right of citizens to be tried by a jury of their peers, the right to petition and to demonstrate. But it wasn’t just his strongly held views on political liberty that made him a key figure in the history of popular rights. He was a political organiser who built one of the first ever popular political organisations in British history, the Levellers.

Although the Levellers were eventually defeated, they contributed an indelible legacy of popular democratic demands to British political culture. In the end their message was heard by US revolutionaries in 1776, by French revolutionaries in 1789 and by every generation of radicals since.

The conference is a great opportunity to show a new generation the importance and excitement of this period of history.


Jeremy Corbyn MP will be one of the speakers at the Lilburne 400 conference at the Bishopsgate Institute, London, on Saturday March 14.


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