London Renaissance Seminar
Birkbeck College, University of London
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
Details: Jerome de Groot