The birth of democracy - a Civil War drama

Putney Debates (photo credit John Beardsworth)Putney Debates (photo credit John Beardsworth)
Putney Debates (photo credit John Beardsworth)
The events on November 1647, when the victors of the Civil War met to discuss how the country should now be governed in a church in Putney is to be brought to life in a new drama.

The Putney Debates will focus on the powerful arguments which raged as tempers frayed as men discussed the very foundation of democracy, including for the first time the idea that all men should have the vote.

Huntingdon Town Hall is staging the performances over the weekend of February 25 and 26.

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Working with members of the Sealed Knot historical re-enactment society, and using original records, the Cromwell Museum has produced an edited and dramatized version of these events, with all the key characters including Oliver Cromwell being played by amateur actors.

Stuart Orme, Curator of the Cromwell Museum says: “375 years ago a group of men – soldiers, politicians and radical thinkers – met at the Putney Debates to discuss how the country should be governed. Their debates and passionate arguments were over ideas that we take for granted today, and after the last year of political upheaval in modern politics this seems more relevant than ever. This should be a dramatic performance that will be engaging, entertaining – and help audiences understand better where the freedoms we enjoy now first came from”.

The Putney Debates took place at the beginning of November in 1647 in St Mary’s Church in Putney, when representatives of ordinary soldiers and political radicals know as ‘Levellers’ met senior army officers to discuss the settlement of the country in the wake of a bloody civil war.

Chaired by Oliver Cromwell, the meeting discussed the fate of King Charles I, whether the country should become a republic, and even whether all men should have the vote – although there was no implication that this should be extended to women.

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Public performances of the Putney Debates drama are being held on Saturday 25 February at 11.30am, 2.30pm and 6.30pm and on Sunday 26 February at 11.30am and 2.30pm. Performances will last about 70 minutes. Tickets for these performances are £10 per person (£8 students and Museum Members) and can be booked in person at the Cromwell Museum or online via the Museum’s website at