Politics by other means

I began photographing re-enactment not because I’m into warfare or military history but because of my interest in political and social history. So I’m always hoping re-enactors will depict the underlying political differences.

Most of these pictures show the Sealed Knot’s Tower Hamlets Trayned Bandes re-enacting the Putney Debates at the original location, St Mary’s Church, Putney, where in 1647 the victorious New Model Army’s generals and soldiers’ representatives met to discuss the peace settlement they wanted Parliament to make with the defeated King. Proposals included universal (male) suffrage, freedom of conscience (for Protestants), and other liberties which were radical at the time but would later be at the heart of the Anglo-American democratic tradition.

Re-enactors generally steer clear of modern politics, and this event in 2013 was a memorial┬áto Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who had been on the Levellers‘ side at Putney and was later assassinated by Royalists. The veteran left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn spoke and unveiled a commemorative plaque, and Jeremy Corbyn also spoke. Then an obscure backbench MP, at the time no-one imagined Corbyn would ever become the leader of the Labour Party.

In 2019 the Cromwell Museum in Huntingdon, where Cromwell had been born and was MP, organized a couple of events including a re-enactment of the trial of Charles I.

If that trial interest you, I recommend The Tyrannicide Brief – its author is a leading war crimes lawyer.