The World Turned Upside Down

We will not worship the God they serve, a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve.

In 1649 to St. George's Hill
A ragged band they called the Diggers came to show the people's will
They defied the landlords, they defied the laws
They were the dispossessed reclaiming what was theirs.

We come in peace, they said, to dig and sow
We come to work the lands in common and make the waste ground grow
This earth divided we will make whole
So it may be a common treasury for all

The sin of property we do disdain
No man has any right to buy or sell the earth for private gain
By theft and murder they took the land
Now everywhere the walls spring up at their command

They make the laws to chain us well
The clergy dazzle us with heaven, or they damn us into hell
We will not worship the God they serve,
a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve

We work and eat together, we need no swords
We will not bow to masters, nor pay rent to the lords
Still we are free, though we are poor
Ye Diggers all, stand up for glory, stand up now!

From the men of property the orders came
They sent the hired men and troopers to wipe out the Diggers' claim
Tear down their cottages, destroy their corn
They were dispersed - only the vision lingers on

Ye poor take courage, ye rich take care
This earth was made a common treasury for everyone to share
All things in common, all people one
They came in peace - the order came to cut them down


In April 1649 about 20 poor men assembled at St. George's Hill, Surrey (UK), and began to cultivate the common land. These Diggers held that the English Civil Wars had been fought against the king and the great landowners; now that Charles I had been executed, land should be made available for the very poor to cultivate. (Food prices had reached record heights in the late 1640s.) The numbers of the Diggers more than doubled during 1649. Their activities alarmed the government and roused the hostility of local landowners, who were rival claimants to the common lands. The Diggers were harassed by legal actions and mob violence, and by the end of March 1650 their colony was dispersed.

Lyrics by Leon Rosselson (my favourite version is by Billy Bragg)


Protesting anyone?


  1. #1 On July 1, 2005 10:20 PM Andrea said:

    Join the struggle while you may,
    The revolution is just a t-shirt away

  2. #2 On July 1, 2005 11:36 PM Matt Robin said:

    "They make the laws to chain us well
    The clergy dazzle us with heaven, or they damn us into hell
    We will not worship the God they serve,
    a God of greed who feeds the rich while poor folk starve"

    It was true then - and hey, it's true now!

    You know what - I could comment on the wider issues of the G8, capitalism and greed in the western world, and all the social implications that go with it...but this is a site about web design - and I don't want to rant about things I'm not very qualified to discuss. I hope the Live 8 gigs and the 'End Poverty' campaigns are successful though.

  3. #3 On July 2, 2005 12:21 AM Malarkey said:

    @ Matt Robin et al:

    but this is a site about web design
    I like to think that this site is about culture, so feel free to rant if you like.

  4. #4 On July 2, 2005 12:35 AM Graham Bancroft said:

    That's really sad, St Georges Hill is now one of the most exclusive and expensive places to live in Surrey with houses no less than 1 million English pounds, if only they knew its' history.

  5. #5 On July 2, 2005 01:00 AM Jeremy Keith said:

    Good ol' Leon Rosselson.

    I used to busk that song travelling 'round Europe. It never failed to stir the blood.

  6. #6 On July 2, 2005 01:41 AM Graham Bancroft said:

    The Make Poverty History campaign has got to be just the start, there are so many things we as a race need to focus on, to name but a few;

    Peak oil
    Global warming

    Before you think of me as some crackpot, have a read, have a think. I have two young children, I want them to have a future.

  7. #7 On July 2, 2005 10:38 AM shaun belcher said:

    Would have been appropriate to have acknowledged these lyrics as being Rossellon's.....pedantic but credit where credit due eh? (Ed says: Duly credited)

    As for recorded versions none matches that of Dick Gaughan on 'Handful of Earth' album from which I cadged following...

    World Turned Upside Down (Leon Rosselson)
    So much has been written in recent years about this period of English history that there's not much I could add here. The English Civil War, which was in fact simply a Bourgeois Revolution, left many of its early supporters feeling cheated and betrayed. The Diggers were Christian, pacifist and could be described as primitive communists. The conclusion of the song, in my interpretation, is that, as they were not prepared to defend themselves, they were annihilated. The evidence of history is that revolutions are usually peaceful - but the resulting counter-revolution is usually extremely bloody and ruthless. Anyone who believes that any ruling class will give up power without extreme resistance is living in a different dimension. The guitar tuning used here was DADDAE with a capo at the 2nd fret

    the more things change the more things stay the same...I'm hoping there no bloodshed this afternoon as I have friends in edinburgh but the real anger will probably be vented at Gleneagles...god help them if the 'counter-revolution' hits them....

  8. #8 On July 3, 2005 02:27 PM Jethro said:

    Aah, there's nothing better than middle class people with plenty of money wringing their hands sorrowfully about the plight of the 'poor', is there?

    Not going to stop you charging inflated prices for your services though, is it? Not going to stop you making more money than your employees, is it?

    (Ed says: It's fine to disagree, I respect that, I love a good debate. But plain insults won't be tolerated, especially when written anonymously. Please behave respectfully.)

  9. #9 On July 3, 2005 03:00 PM Dave said:

    Often personal memories are more sacred at remembering the past, glad you found these.

  10. #10 On July 4, 2005 09:26 AM Tim said:

    The Levellers and The Diggers.

    It's such a shame that an important piece of British history like this is sadly over-looked by our dodgy teaching and exam boards...

    On a day when American is celebrating it's independance (and maybe we should be celebrating our severance), it's nice to see someone remembering some of our history.

    As for "middle class people with plenty of money wringing their hands sorrowfully about the plight of the 'poor'"?

    I'm sure "the poor" won't greet it with sarcasm and ignorance.

  11. #11 On July 5, 2005 12:36 AM A said:

    I'm a postgrad politics student, which means that I'm probably more brainwashed about the world situation than most, spend too much time reading the self-serving garbage passing as analysis in the mainstream media and in academia. Having kicked in the TV during the Live 8 jamboree, couldn't stand Sir Bob's sanctimonious cant, I ran into your excellent site I'm not sure how. Thank google, I suppose.

    The lyrics sent a shiver down by back, sent me back to my bookshelf and Christopher Hill and then to my old Billy Bragg mp3s. Hearing Billy spit out the history of a struggle past, I felt ashamed about my cynicism.

    Yeah, the revolution still starts at closing time, but at least I was reminded of so many good times past, the sense of community, purpose, agitating for real change creates, was reminded, on a day when I'd almost given up on the idea, that another world is possible. Thanks.

  12. #12 On July 6, 2005 11:11 AM Jon Roobottom said:

    G8? I found this interesting