Thursday, May 28, 2009

John Lilburne: Life, Thought, Legacy

London Renaissance Seminar

24 October 2009

On 25 October 1649, the charismatic Leveller leader, John Lilburne, was
dramatically acquitted of treason following a high profile trial at
London’s Guildhall. The decision was greeted by jubilant crowds and
celebratory bonfires, and was quickly commemorated by a medal which
explained that Lilburne had been ‘saved by the power of the Lord and the
integrity of the jury’. In the 360 years since that trial, Lilburne has
become one of the seventeenth century’s most well-known characters, and
one of few contemporaries who have been capable of taking centre stage
in both academic and popular histories of the civil wars. However,
Lilburne was a flagrant self-publicist, who did much to mythologize his
own story, while since his death ‘Freeborn John’ has been made into a
hero for a range of more or less incompatible political causes. For
Lilburne, more than for most of his contemporaries, it is vital to try
and separate myth from reality, and to explore how his reputation has
been made and moulded since the 1640s. This event will contribute to
this process by reconsidering Lilburne’s 1649 trial, and by thinking
about its importance for enhancing our understanding the life and times
of this most controversial character.


Ted Vallance, Phil Baker, Rachel Foxley, Jason Peacey, Jerome de Groot



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