The world turned upside down

"The civil war represents the overthrow of monarchical tyranny and the successful emergence of the middling classes."

The time before, during and after the English Civil War created such turmoil that it is frequently referred to as the period where the world turned upside down.

The ballad "The world turned upside down" was written in 1643 as a protest against Parliament's decision (heavily influenced by the Puritans) to ban Christmas Day - a celebration that had been welded on to the much older pagan ceremonies that take place around the winter solstice.

If buttercups buzz'd after the bee,
If boats were on land, churches on sea,
If ponies rode men and if grass ate the cows,
And cats should be chased into holes by the mouse,
If the mamas sold their babies
To the gypsies for half a crown;
If summer were spring and the other way round,
Then all the world would be upside down.

Puritans felt that the celebration of their prophet's birth was too important and serious to allow people to indulge in parties and merry-making.

This is very reminiscent of modern Christians accusing non-believers (atheists, secularists and humanists) of wanting to ban Christmas - which absolutely none of them do. (Maybe it is just the Daily Mail and the Daily Express causing trouble by feeding on fear and paranoia - as usual.)

Reasons for the English Civil War

The Magna Carta of 1215 represented the first attempt to limit the powers of the king.

Those who had gained their land during "The Great Theft" following the Norman French invasion were flexing their muscles and were no longer willing to accept the arbitrary decisions made by the king - particularly King John who they considered to be squandering their tax money on unnecessary wars.

(Perhaps we need a new Magna Carta given the track record of the last few English Prime Ministers - "every PM must have his war" seems to be the number one rule in "The Dummies Guide to running a country".)

There is no doubt that religious dissent was one of the major contributing factors of the Civil War but those who were objecting to the actions of the king, and of Archbishop Laud, were now dominated by the "middling classes" - those who had gained from the redistribution of land following the Dissolution of the Monasteries during the reformation of Henry VIII.

The first Lollard protests began in the 1350 (even before the Peasants' revolt of 1381) and they were highly influential in promoting the ideas of "free will". They were not anti-religious, they were opposed to the institutions of religion that denied them the right to interpret religion for themselves.

There were Lollardist trials in England as late as 1522 which puts the Lollards contemporary to the English Dissenters and such groups as the Known Men and Free Will Men of the 1540-1560's. Much of the Free Will Movement developed into English Anabaptistism, so one could argue the Lollards still exist today in the form of Menonnites. Baptists were the first to promote the idea that baptism should be an informed adult choice rather then being imposed on an infant knowing nothing about religion.

Early translations of the Bible by people such as Tyndale in the 1530s meant that for the first time, the common man, if he could read, could read the words of his holy book without the intercession of a priest. For the first time people looked at the words of the Christian prophet as set down in things such as The Sermon on the Mount. The teachings of Jesus did not seem to match the actions of the landowners and those in power and the groundswell of rebellion began to build. Most of those who could read were of the middling, educated classes so it is not surprising that they were the leaders of rebellion.

The English Civil War was the birth place of modern day radical views that had been building up since John Ball and John Wycliffe. Religious movements such Methodists, Quakers, Puritans found their origins there along with Communism, Anarchism and Socialism.

As is often the case throughout history, a feeling of unrest and a popular rebellion was hijacked by the middling classes with their own agenda - hence the rapid supression of radicals as soon as the civil war ended.

Some of the groups involved


They believed that:

  • all people should be equal in the eyes of the law,
  • the wealth of the rich should be taken from them and all people given an equal share,
  • the right to own property should be abolished,
  • the country should be ruled by a democratic parliament with universal suffrage,
  • human rights must be respected and religious tolerance adopted.

The best way to achieved this is by military coup by the leveller regiments in the New Model Army rising. If Cromwell becomes a tyrant he must be assassinated.

Idealists - but a pretty good bunch.

We don't know if there was Leveller activity in Trusley but we do know that the lead miners of nearby Wirksworth sent representatives to take part in Leveller debates.

They were, of course, hunted down by Cromwell and the new generation of landowners who wanted "freedom and equality" for themselves only. Yet again the landowning class used violence and the law to ensure they held their land without taxation or constraint.


The Diggers, or "True Levellers," who got their name from their attempts to dig-up and plant crops on enclosed land, considered Charles I to be a "Norman Successor" and his execution would cast off the "Norman Yoke".

Diggers felt the Levellers were mostly middle class agitators in the New Model Army who talked a lot and did little.

Diggers under attack
Diggers under attack

They were peasants at the bottom rung of society and had nothing, land ownership had robbed every Englishman of his birthright, all land was common property and no-one had the right to own it.

Enough with talking, the Diggers would simply move on to the land and begin farming on a collective basis all over the country. They believed the world was sinful and soon the final judgement would come, however those who lived puritanical lives would be spared.

Another good bunch but perhaps influenced too much by religion.

Question: did the Diggers dig at Trusley? Answer: we have no idea because we have no local history of the time.


They believed in the inner light and rejected priests and scripture. They didn't like the corruption of the world, refused to take public oaths or pay taxes and hated organised churches. Sometimes they would go into rapture and often wore no clothes. They accepted no authority and whenever they met lords or nobles they used insulting terms of address to them.

Quakers continue to be good allies when promoting freedom of religion and belief.


Like the Quakers they believed in the inner spirit and accepted no authority - anyone who agreed with them was bound by no earthly laws and was free to do anything. God was pantheistic and in everything: alcohol, free sex, drugs, People shouldn't live life obsessed with the afterlife but live this life to the full now.



They felt that the tyrant Charles I must be overthrown by all means necessary, tried and executed as a traitor. They supported the creation of the New Model Army as the way to win the war, not a Presbyterian alliance with Scotland.

They were morally outraged at the licentiousness and corruption of the world and wanted to pass laws to impose piety and a strong moral code, however they tolerated all moderate religions.

They felt that the Levellers, Diggers, Ranters, Quakers and Fifth Monarchists were beyond saving and that the Government should be honest and if that meant making Cromwell king, so be it.


They were the dominant force in the Houses of Parliament before the civil war and then again during the Rump Parliament. The Independents accused them of corruption.

They were suspicious of the New Model Army and wished to appease the king and come to an amicable peace, however if he refused to convert to their religion he must go.

Fifth Monarchists

They believed it was the dawning of a new golden age, soon Christ's kingdom on Earth would come, it would be brought in by a society of saints marching on Europe, however at the moment the country is too corrupt.

Their role was to convert powerful people and win parliamentary elections if this failed they would carry out a military coup and gain control of the country to make the land fit for saints. Their main support came from tradesmen and some of the army.

There was a touch of the raving-loony cult about them - "the world will end on October 23rd, 2018 just before tea time."