War, Clausewitz said, is politics by other means, and 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.
The other pictures are from 2013 and show the veteran left-wing Labour politician Tony Benn unveiling a memorial to Colonel Thomas Rainsborough who had been on the Levellers‘ side at Putney and had later been assassinated by Royalists. Also present was Jeremy Corbyn, then an obscure backbench MP but who in 2015 somehow became the leader of the Labour Party.