The historians Morton and Hill supported the popular view held about the ranters and for some time this was very much undisputed. This view claimed that the ranters had rebelled against the groups or classes who came had come to power in the English revolution. The groups and classes, upon which they rebelled were those who possessed most of the power, land and supported the protestant ethic. These people who held the power would use the concepts of sin and hell to keep the masses in order.
This was an essential framework authenticated by the contemporary writings of many historians including Albizer Coppe and was unquestioned until the work of Davis in Fear, Myth and History. Davis was very controversial in his studies; he denied the existence of any such thing as a Ranter sect or movement. He argued that they shared no consistent ideology. He claimed the speculation over the ranters in the 1650s was a scare tactic caused by the collapse of the old order after the English revolution.
Finally Davis suggested the Marxist historians caused the shaping of the ranter myth in the 20th century. The points that he raised were somewhat controversial amongst historians, many historians even when as far as contesting Davis’s work. Historians have tended to focus on some points, which include, the debating on weather ranters existed or not, were they a group or movement? did their ideas and actions form a “milieu”? And did they have a coherent ideology. Whereas the majority of historians have opted not to dispute the existence of the ranters, Davis is one who has.
Davis in his studies claims that the ranters do not share a coherent or consistent ideology, therefore they do not exist. Davis claims that the sources, which suggest ranters, existed were very hostile and similar to sources, which concern religious heretics. He also argues that the ranter stereotype has been used to describe other groups like Anabaptists and only the label of the stereotype had changed. Davis also goes on to suggest to us, that the label ranters was one used be the leaders of religious groups to discipline members of the group who don’t abide by the rules or go wayward.
Davis also claimed not to find any evidence of the government repression of the ranters, which many historians claimed their was, have used as proof of ranter existence. On the other there have been many historians who have claimed that the ranters did exist and have contested Davis’s point of view. One argument which have historians have used to discredit Davis’s work is one where they say ” since 17th century contemporaries claim ranters existed, they must have been and Davis cannot really argue with this since he was not around”.
Davis has however criticised this argument by saying that not all contemporary sources can be taken as truthful and valuable evidence, he uses the example of weather we should believe like 17th century contemporaries, that witches, demons and monsters existed. The historian McGregor denies Davis’s thesis by developing a point made by the historian Reary, who suggests that Davis felt the ranters were a myth created by the journalist’s between October 1650 and January 1951. McGregor developed the historian Reary’s claims by looking at the evidence, which shows Ranter existence before the myth was created.
McGregor argues that the “yellow press” journalist as Davis claimed ” did not invent the term Ranters, it was a term used by many contemporaries describing immoral characteristics in an individual and come to describe the principles and practices of Copp, Clarkson and their followers. Other historians have found evidence of Ranter existence by looking at evidence among the core pamphleteers and finding sources, which suggest that they were communicating which implies their was a ranter group, movement, sect or milieu. Davis claims that this is not conclusive evidence and to some degree be coincidental.