Western Civilization II, W5/L25 – The Thirty Years’ War, the English Civil War, and the Levellers

(1) What kinds of ideas were the “eutopians” promoting? Why is it perhaps not a coincidence that this desire to rethink the organization of society emerged in the sixteenth century in particular?

     The Eutopians advocated for an artificial hierarchy, meaning they thought that the public should decide to give someone a title rather than the title having legal backing. They believed that money and honor should be earned by each individual, not passed down through parents. The Eutopians thought that people should choose their ruler, rather than having someone rule just because they were born to the previous ruler. They were very much against the ideas of private ownership of property and free trade. Campanella believed that trade led to war, and therefore deemed it undesirable. Many Eutopians also advocated for a lot of government oversight. To prevent greed, to prevent starvation, to make sure that everyone does their job and that no one needs or wants anything.

    Some Eutopians listed qualities that members of a utopian society would possess. Utopians would be healthy, good-looking, friendly, rational, and vigorous. No one would slack off, always working efficiently and reliably, because if they did not, everyone would suffer. The pool of resources for everyone to take from would be smaller if everyone did not do his share. Overall, the Eutopians banked their ideal society on the hope that everyone would always do their part and listen to the government as the ultimate authority figure.

(3) What was the English Civil War all about?

    The English Civil War was fought between the Royalists and the Parliamentarians. The Royalists believed the king should have absolute rule and did not need to call Parliament if he did not want to. The Parliamentarians on the other hand, advocated for the king to regularly call Parliament, and that Parliament would be concerned with every issue of the kingdom.

(4) Who were the Levellers, and what did they believe?

    The Levellers had a very different set of beliefs than the Eutopians. The Levellers are considered some of the first Libertarians, and they believed that every individual possessed certain inalienable rights. The list includes the right to do as you wish with your property, whether good or bad, the right to create and honor contracts with any party, the right to free trade, religious toleration, freedom of association. The Levellers also believed in something called Natural Law, which essentially means that there is a natural moral code that exists whether someone creates it or not.


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