There seems to be a continuing theme in English literature on the freedom of beggars and highwaymen. Beggars and highwaymen pride themselves on their relative honesty, using a rhetoric of liberty. Robin Hood and his outlaws were "free" in the Greenwood, and stole from the rich to give to the poor. Highwaymen and pirates (or writers about them) used libertarian rhetoric, and often won the sympathy and hero-worship of crowds at Tyburn. Contracting out of the state and its laws is complemented by religious dissenters contracting out of the state church. Economic changes - the eviction of the peasantry from enclosures - made many essential traditional rights illegal. Freedom was opposed to the discipline of the market and its laws. The author explores these linked themes - both in literature and in historical reality.
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