John Gurney (1960-2014) was an historian of early-modern England and of the English Revolution. John completed his DPhil, on the County of Surrey during the English Revolution, under Professor Willie Lamont at Sussex University in 1991. It was during the research for the DPhil that he became interested in the Digger Movement who for a short time in 1649 occupied and cultivated common land in Surrey. He went on to produce pioneering studies of the Diggers and their leader Gerrard Winstanley. John also wrote and published on the prolific seventeenth-century poet George Wither and on early-modern architecture.


The first full-length modern study of the Diggers, one of the most remarkable of the radical groups that emerged during the English Revolution of 1640-1660. It was in April 1649 that the Diggers, inspired by the teachings and writings of Gerrard Winstanley, began their occupation of the waste lands at St George's Hill in Surrey and called on all poor people to join them or follow their example. Acting at a time of unparalleled political change and millenarian expectation, the Diggers believed that the establishment of an egalitarian, property-less society was imminent.

The book establishes the local origins of the Digger movement, and sets out to examine pre-civil war social relations and social tensions in the parish of Cobham - from where significant numbers of the Diggers came - and the impact of civil war in the local community. It provides a detailed account of the Surrey Digger settlements and of local reactions to the Diggers, and it explores the spread of Digger activities beyond Surrey. In chapters on the writings and career of Gerrard Winstanley, it seeks to offer a reinterpretation of one of the major thinkers of the English Revolution.


Gerrard Winstanley (1609-1676) was one of the great English radicals. This book examines his life and his activities as leader of the Digger movement, as well as his fantastic prose writings, and examines the legacy of Winstanley's thought right up to the present day.


major articles

'Gerrard Winstanley and the Left', Past and Present, no. 235 (2017), pp. 179-206.

'Gerrard Winstanley and the Context of Place', Prose Studies 36:1 (2014), pp. 1-14.

'Maynard, Sir John (1582-1658), politician', 'Bickerstaff, Henry (bap. 1606, d. in or after 1661)', 'Onslow, Sir Richard (bap. 1601, d. 1664), 'Staunton, Edmund (1600-1671), ejected minister and college head', 'Byfield, Richard (bap. 1598, d. 1664', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

'Lady Jane Berkeley, Ashley House, and Architectural Innovations in Late-Elizabethan England', Architectural History: Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain, 43 (2000), pp. 113-120.

'"Furious divells?" The Diggers and Their Opponents', Prose Studies, 22:2 (1999), pp. 73-86. This special issue, edited by Andrew Bradstock, is also available as a book: Winstanley and the Diggers, 1659-1999 (London: Frank Cass, 2000).

'George Wither and Surrey Politics, 1642-1649', Southern History: A Review of the History of Southern England, 19 (1997), pp. 74-98.

'Gerrard Winstanley and the Digger Movement in Walton and Cobham', The Historical Journal, 37:4 (1994), pp. 775-802.


The Guardian, 'Other Lives'.

John Gurney (1960-2014) by Alun Howkins, History Workshop Journal, 82 (Autumn 2016), pp. 311-314.


memorial event 21.05.16




Reflection on the event by Dr Scott Ashley.


Loved & lost

In 2018 I contributed to the fantastic Loved & Lost project, contributing a photograph of John and I together just after the birth of our first child and then returning to where it was taken to replicate the image. You can see the replica image and find my full story here.