Government through the King's Privy Council was replaced with a new body called the Council of State, which due to fundamental disagreements within a weakened Parliament was dominated by the Army. Many people became active in politics, suggesting alternative forms of government to replace the old order.
In 1649 Gerrard Winstanley and 14 others published a pamphlet in which they called themselves the "True Levellers" to distinguish their ideas from those of the Levellers. Once they put their idea into practice and started to cultivate common land, both opponents and supporters began to call them "Diggers". The Diggers' beliefs were informed by Winstanley's writings which envisioned an ecological interrelationship between humans and nature, acknowledging the inherent connections between people and their surroundings. Winstanley declared that "true freedom lies where a man receives his nourishment and preservation, and that is in the use of the earth".
An undercurrent of political thought which has run through English society for many generations and resurfaced from time to time (for example, in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381) was present in some of the political factions of the 17th century, including those who formed the Diggers. It involved the common belief that England had become subjugated by the "Norman Yoke". This legend offered an explanation that at one time a golden Era had existed in England before the Norman Conquest in 1066. From the Conquest on, the Diggers argued, the "common people of England" had been robbed of their birthrights and exploited by a foreign ruling-class.
St George's Hill, Weybridge, Surrey
The Council of State received a letter in April 1649 reporting that several individuals had begun to plant vegetables in common land on St George's Hill, Weybridge near Cobham, Surrey at a time when food prices reached an all-time high. Sanders reported that they had invited "all to come in and help them, and promise them meat, drink, and clothes." They intended to pull down all enclosures and cause the local populace to come and work with them. They claimed that their number would be several thousand within ten days. "It is feared they have some design in hand." In the same month, the Diggers issued their most famous pamphlet and manifesto, called "The True Levellers Standard Advanced".
At the behest of the local landowners, the commander of the New Model Army, Sir Thomas Fairfax, duly arrived with his troops and interviewed Winstanley and another prominent member of the Diggers, William Everard. Everard suspected that the Diggers were in serious trouble and soon left the group. Fairfax, meanwhile, having concluded that Diggers were doing no harm, advised the local landowners to use the courts.
Winstanley remained and continued to write about the treatment they received. The harassment from the Lord of the Manor, Francis Drake (not the famous Francis Drake, who had died more than 50 years before), was both deliberate and systematic: he organised gangs in an attack on the Diggers, including numerous beatings and an arson attack on one of the communal houses. Following a court case, in which the Diggers were forbidden to speak in their own defence, they were found guilty of being Ranters, a radical sect associated with liberal sexuality (though in fact Winstanley had reprimanded Ranter Laurence Clarkson for his sexual practices). Having lost the court case, if they had not left the land, then the army could have been used to enforce the law and evict them; so they abandoned Saint George's Hill in August 1649, much to the relief of the local freeholders.
Little Heath near Cobham
Some of the evicted Diggers moved a short distance to Little Heath in Surrey. 11 acres (4.5 ha) were cultivated, six houses built, winter crops harvested, and several pamphlets published. After initially expressing some sympathy for them, the local lord of the manor of Cobham, Parson John Platt, became their chief enemy. He used his power to stop local people helping them and he organised attacks on the Diggers and their property. By April 1650, Platt and other local landowners succeeded in driving the Diggers from Little Heath.
A Declaration of the Grounds and Reasons why we the Poor Inhabitants of the Town of Wellingborrow, in the County of Northampton, have begun and give consent to dig up, manure and sow Corn upon the Common, and waste ground, called Bareshanke belonging to the Inhabitants of Wellinborrow, by those that have Subscribed and hundreds more that give Consent....
This colony was probably founded as a result of contact with the Surrey Diggers. In late March 1650, four emissaries from the Surrey colony were arrested in Buckinghamshire bearing a letter signed by the Surrey Diggers including Gerrard Winstanley and Robert Coster inciting people to start Digger colonies and to provide money for the Surrey Diggers. According to the newspaper A Perfect Diurnall the emissaries had travelled a circuit through the counties of Surrey, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Huntingdonshire and Northamptonshire before being apprehended.
On 15 April 1650 the Council of State ordered Mr Pentlow, a justice of the peace for Northamptonshire to proceed against "the Levellers in those parts" and to have them tried at the next Quarter Session. The Iver Diggers recorded that nine of the Wellingborough Diggers were arrested and imprisoned in Northampton jail and although no charges could be proved against them the justice refused to release them.
Captain William Thompson, the leader of the failed "Banbury mutiny", was killed in a skirmish close to the community by soldiers loyal to Oliver Cromwell in May 1649.
Another colony of Diggers connected to the Surrey and Wellingborough colony was set up in Iver, Buckinghamshire about 14 miles (23 km) from the Surrey Diggers colony at St George's Hill. The Iver Diggers' "Declaration of the grounds and Reasons, why we the poor Inhabitants of the Parrish of Iver in Buckinghamshire ..." revealed that there were further Digger colonies in Barnet in Hertfordshire, Enfield in Middlesex, Dunstable in Bedfordshire, Bosworth in Leicestershire and further colonies at unknown locations in Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire. It also revealed that after the failure of the Surrey colony, the Diggers had left their children to be cared for by parish funds.
During the middle and late 1960s, the San Francisco Diggers (who took their name from the original English Diggers) opened free stores where useable discarded or donated items were simply given away; provided free food, medical care, transport and temporary housing; they also organised free music concerts and works of political art. Some of their happenings included the Death of Money Parade, Intersection Game, Invisible Circus, and Death of Hippie/Birth of Free.
The Diggers were a radicalcommunity-action group of community activists and Improv actors operating from 1966 to 1968, based in the Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood of San Francisco. Their politics were such that they have sometimes been categorised as "left-wing". More precisely, they were "community anarchists" who blended a desire for freedom with a consciousness of the community in which they lived. They were closely associated with and shared a number of members with a guerrilla theatre group named the San Francisco Mime Troupe. Like the original English Diggers, they envisioned a society free from private property, and all forms of buying and selling. Actor Peter Coyote was a founding member of the Diggers.
The American Diggers were echoed in the 1960s in the UK (see Alternative Society and Sid Rawle). Since the revival of anarchism in the British anti-roads movement, the Diggers have been celebrated as precursors of land squatting and communalism.
April 1, 1999, on the 350th anniversary of Gerrard Winstanley and the Diggers' occupation of the English Civil War on the same hill, The Land Is Ours organised a rally, then occupied land at St. George's Hill near Weybridge, Surrey.
In 2011, an annual festival began in Wigan to celebrate the Diggers. In 2012, the second annual festival proved a great success and the sixth took place in 2016. In Wellingborough, a festival has also been held annually since 2011. Bolton Diggers were established in 2013 and have promoted "the commons" as a foil to privatisation. They have established community food gardens, cooperatives and the Common Wealth café, a pay-as-you-feel café using surplus food from supermarkets.
 Many archive resources are available at the Diggers.org site about both the English and San Francisco diggers.
Truth Lifting up its Head above Scandals (1649, Dedication dated 16 October 1648), Gerrard Winstanley
The New Law of Righteousness (26 January 1649), Gerrard Winstanley
The True Levellers Standard A D V A N C E D: or, The State of Community opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men William Everard, John Palmer, John South, John Courton. William Taylor, Christopher Clifford, John Barker. Gerrard Winstanley, Richard Goodgroome, Thomas Starre, William Hoggrill, Robert Sawyer, Thomas Eder, Henry Bickerstaffe, John Taylor, &c. (20 April 1649)
A DECLARATION FROM THE Poor oppressed People OF ENGLAND, DIRECTED To all that call themselves, or are called Lords of Manors, through this NATION... Gerrard Winstanley, John Coulton, John Palmer, Thomas Star, Samuel Webb, John Hayman, Thomas Edcer, William Hogrill, Daniel Weeden, Richard Wheeler, Nathaniel Yates, William Clifford, John Harrison, Thomas Hayden, James Hall. James Manley, Thomas Barnard, John South, Robert Sayer, Christopher Clifford, John Beechee, William Coomes, Christopher Boncher, Richard Taylor, Urian Worthington, Nathaniel Holcombe, Giles Childe (senior), John Webb, Thomas Yarwel, William Bonnington. John Ash, Ralph Ayer, John Pra, John Wilkinson, Anthony Spire, Thomas East, Allen Brown, Edward Parret, Richard Gray, John Mordy, John Bachilor, William Childe, William Hatham, Edward Wicher, William Tench.(1 June 1649).
A LETTER TO The Lord Fairfax, AND His Councell of War, WITH Divers Questions to the Lawyers, and Ministers: Proving it an undeniable Equity, That the common People ought to dig, plow, plant and dwell upon the Commons, with-out hiring them, or paying Rent to any. On the behalf of those who have begun to dig upon George-Hill in Surrey. Gerrard Winstanly (9 June 1649)
A Declaration of The bloudie and unchristian acting of William Star and John Taylor of Walton (22 June 1649), Gerrard Winstanley
An Appeal To the House of Commons; desiring their answer: whether the common-people shall have the quiet enjoyment of the commons and waste land; ... (11 July 1649), Gerrard Winstanley, John Barker, and Thomas Star
A Watch-Word to the City of London, and the Armie (26 August 1649), Gerrard Winstanley
To His Excellency the Lord Fairfax and the Counsell of Warre the Brotherly Request of those that are called Diggers sheweth (December 1649), John Heyman, An. Wrenn, Hen. Barton, Jon Coulton (in the behalf of others called the Diggers), Robert Cosler, John Plamer, Jacob Heard (in The Clarke Papers volume 2, )
To My Lord Generall and his Councell of Warr (8 December 1649), Gerrard Winstanley (in The Clarke Papers volume 2, )
The Diggers Song (circa 1649,1650) (in The Clarke Papers volume 2, ), attributed to Gerrard Winstanley by the historian C. H. Firth, the editor of The Clarke Papers.
The Declaration and Standard of the Levellers of England, delivered in a speech to His Excellency the Lord Gen. Fairfax, on Friday last at White-Hall ..., William Everard
Several Pieces gathered into one volume (1650, Preface dated 20 December 1649), A second edition of five of Gerrard Winstanley's works printed for Giles Calvert, the printer for nearly all the Diggers writings.
A New-yeers Gift FOR THE PARLIAMENT AND ARMIE: SHEWING, What the KINGLY Power is; And that the CAUSE of those They call DIGGERS (1 January 1650), Gerrard Winstanley
Englands Spirit Unfoulded or an incouragement to take the Engagement ... (Ca. February or March 1650), Jerrard [sic] Winstanley.
A Vindication of Those Whose Endeavors is Only to Make the Earth a Common Treasury, Called Diggers (4 March 1650), Gerrard Winstanley
Fire in the Bush (19 March 1650), Gerrard Winstanley
An appeale to all Englishmen, to judge between bondage and freedome, sent from those that began to digge upon George Hill in Surrey; but now are carrying on, that publick work upon the little heath in the parish of Cobham..., (26 March 1650), Jerard [sic] Winstanley [and 24 others]
A Letter taken at Wellingborough (March 1650), probably written by Gerrard Winstanley.
An Humble Request, to the Ministers of both Universities, and to all Lawyers in every Inns-a-court (9 April 1650), Gerrard Winstanley
"The World Turned Upside Down" by Leon Rosselson, 1975, a song about the Diggers and their activities on St. George's Hill in 1649; this song was performed by Dick Gaughan on his album Handful of Earth, 1981; by the Barracudas on their album Endeavour to Persevere, 1984; by Out of the Rain on their album A Common Treasury, 1985; by Billy Bragg on his Between the Wars EP, 1985; by Chumbawumba on the b-side of their single Timebomb, 1993; by Four to the Bar on Another Son in 1995; by Attila the Stockbroker with Barnstormer on The Siege of Shoreham, 1996; by Oysterband on their albums Shouting End of life and Alive and Shouting, 1995 and 1996; by Karan Casey (formerly of the Irish band Solas), on her Songlines album, 1997; by Clandestine, a Houston-based Celtic group, on their To Anybody at All album, 1999; by the Fagans, an Australian folk group, on their album, Turning Fine, 2002; and by Seattle Celt-rock band Coventry on the album Red Hair and Black Leather, 2005.
^E.g. "That we may work in righteousness, and lay the Foundation of making the Earth a Common Treasury for All, both Rich and Poor, That every one that is born in the Land, may be fed by the Earth his Mother that brought him forth, according to the Reason that rules in the Creation. Not Inclosing any part into any particular hand, but all as one man, working together, and feeding together as Sons of one Father, members of one Family; not one Lording over another, but all looking upon each other, as equals in the Creation;" in The True Levellers Standard A D V A N C E D: or, The State of Community opened, and Presented to the Sons of Men
^Acts 4:32, Today's English Version: "The group of believers was one in mind and heart. No one said that any of his belongings was his own, but they all shared with one another everything they had."
^Loewenstein, David (2001). Representing revolution in Milton and his contemporaries: religion, politics, and polemics in radical Puritanism (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 315. ISBN0-521-77032-7.
^Winstanley, Gerrard (2009). The complete works of Gerrard Winstanley. 2. Oxford University Press. p. 430. ISBN0-19-957606-8.