The trial of John Lilburne October 1649: a new perspective

Heron, J. (2013) The trial of John Lilburne October 1649: a new perspective. M.A. thesis, Canterbury Christ Church University.


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The trial of John Lilburne for treasonable, seditious libel that took place at the Guildhall in London on the 24th, 25th and 26th of October 1649 has held a clear and unambiguous place in the consciousness of the majority of those that have written on the subject. It has been portrayed as a victory for John Lilburne and for the truth and force of his rhetoric. This research sought to re- examine the historical evidence for this interpretation that has emerged as the traditional orthodoxy. Mitigating factors to this was to look at the context of the trial within the year of 1649, the relationship between accused and the State and also the accused and the trial’s primary and most prominent chronicler.

The study endeavors to shed new light on the tensions that existed within the newly formed Commonwealth State and how these impacted on the circumstances of the trial. These tensions not only existed between prosecutors and defendant, propaganda and public opinion, but are also evidenced within the highest echelons of the State’s power structure.

The research deliberately sought to examine the areas that have been less travelled by previous writers on the trial. These aspects include: the stance that was developed by those that opposed John Lilburne, Clement Walker’s interpretation of the event and how this has influenced many future writings on the trial, the under reported first day of the trial and also if the acquittal at the
end of the trial was truly the victory that has been maintained. The aim was to give a more balanced and studied interpretation to what occurred. This was attempted by using less documented sources such as those associated with the first day and the evidence supplied by contemporary news books. It also seeks to re-examine the works of John Lilburne to help revaluate and glean a new understanding of the forces and processes that centered on the Guildhall before, during and after the trial.

Item Type: Thesis (Masters)
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain > DA0020 England > DA0028 History > DA0129 By period > DA0300 Modern, 1485- > DA0400 Civil War and Commonwealth, 1642-1669
Divisions: pre Nov-2014 > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > History and American Studies
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Hudson
Date Deposited: 14 Apr 2015 13:08
Last Modified: 21 Sep 2016 16:20

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00