The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil War (1642–51) committed to popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law and religious tolerance. The hallmark of Leveller thought was its populism, as shown by its emphasis on equal natural rights, and their practice of reaching the public through pamphlets, petitions and vocal appeals to the crowd.
The Levellers came to prominence at the end of the First English Civil War (1642–46) and were most influential before the start of the Second Civil War (1648–49). Leveller views and support were found in the populace of the City of London and in some regiments in the New Model Army. Their ideas were presented in their manifesto “Agreement of the People”. In contrast to the Diggers, the Levellers opposed common ownership, except in cases of mutual agreement of the property owners.
The Levellers were not a political party in the modern sense of the term. They were organised at the national level, with offices in a number of London inns and taverns such as The Rosemary Branch in Islington, which got its name from the sprigs of rosemary that Levellers wore in their hats as a sign of identification.
From July 1648 to September 1649, they published a newspaper, The Moderate, and were pioneers in the use of petitions and pamphleteering to political ends. They identified themselves by sea-green ribbons worn on their clothing.
The Diggers were a group of Protestant radicals in England, sometimes seen as forerunners of modern anarchism,and also associated with agrarian socialism and Georgism. Gerrard Winstanley’s followers were known as True Levellers in 1649 and later became known as Diggers, because of their attempts to farm on common land.
Their original name came from their belief in economic equality based upon a specific passage in the Acts of the Apostles. The Diggers tried (by “levelling” land) to reform the existing social order with an agrarian lifestyle based on their ideas for the creation of small, egalitarian rural communities. They were one of a number of nonconformist dissenting groups that emerged around this time.