Agitators (Parliamentary Army)

1647-48

By 1647 the first major phase of the English Civil War was over, and Parliament was well aware of the heavy cost - and threat to stability - of maintaining a large army in the field. Parliamentary leaders proposed to disband the army, without giving the soldiers back pay that they were owed, and without granting them indemnity for damage committed during the conflict.

The army protested bitterly against the proposals. To represent their views, the soldiers elected two agents from each regiment. These agents, also known as 'Agitators', effectively acted as a secondary commanding force, and sometimes wielded more power than the army's own officers. They tended to represent a more radical outlook than the army leadership, and there was strong support for the extreme social radicalism of the Levellers among the Agitators and the troops they represented.

The Agitators imprisoned Charles I at Newmarket, and took part in the so-called 'Putney debates' of October and November 1647, which was essentially a discussion with the less radical leadership over what next steps the reforms brought on by victory over the king should take. The influence wielded by the Agitators quickly waned, and by 1648 the army officers were back in charge of their troops.

Time period(s): Stuart

Tags: Agitators   Agents   Civil War   Charles I  

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