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Diggers

Diggers, members of a small English religio-economic movement (fl. 1649–50), so called because they attempted to dig (i.e., cultivate) the wastelands. They were an offshoot of the more important group of Puritan extremists known as the Levelers. Gerrard Winstanley was the leader of the Diggers and the exponent of their egalitarian and communistic philosophy in his New Law of Righteousness (1649). The little band planted the common land at St. George's Hill, Surrey, and at nearby Cobham, but their project was met with suspicion by their neighbors and resistance from the landowners on whose property they encroached. In the spring of 1650 their community was destroyed by mob violence, and the experiment was abandoned. Winstanley's Law of Freedom (1652) extended his thesis that English law and institutions should be modified immediately to bring social and economic equality to all men through common ownership of the land.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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