How to Kill a King: The Move Towards Democracy

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What’s it all about?

Discover the story of an oft-forgotten 17th century radical English political movement, the Levellers (or Agitators), and learn how they set us on the path to democracy and equality.

With a political programme that is recognisable in our values and institutions today, and that was an inspiration to the Founding Fathers of the United States, the Levellers also led the push towards the first legally mandated execution of a monarch in human history!

What will we cover?

These men and women risked life and limb to enshrine in law and custom values we take for granted, including one person, one vote; equality before the law; the separation of church and state; freedom of religion; the law in English; and the right to silence.

In this class, we will learn about

  • 17th century England and the political situation, in particular the reasons for the English Civil War.
  • The original reason for the separation of church and state.
  • The beginnings of the Levellers, the reason for their name, who they were, their main players and their political programme.
  • Some of the Levellers’ key documents – The Agreement of the People, the Leveller ‘newspaper’ The Moderate, and the Putney Debates.
  • The Levellers’ unfortunate demise.
  • How the groups’ ideas and ideals have carried on. John Locke, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson spoke fondly of the movement, and many of the movements’ sentiments carry through in the Declaration of Independence. Many of our own cherished values in Australia can be traced to the Levellers, if in sentiment only.

Who will be teaching

Ramsay Wright has been a teacher and tutor of English and History since 2008, working in both Western Australia and Melbourne, in all three school systems. He nurtured his interest in English civil war history (along with undergraduate history study at Monash), whilst working with students on a range of historical and political study and discourse, outside the usual school curriculum, at Melbourne Grammar Schools’ middle school, Wadhurst, in its Extension Studies Department.

Ramsay has also completed undergraduate and postgraduate studies in Greek, Roman, medieval European, Australian, Middle Eastern and American history at Melbourne University. But this historical journey has been lifelong, propelled by the discovery that history affords, and its scale.