This article examines the 1938 historical novel 1649: A Novel of a Year by the Anglo-Australian communist polymath Jack Lindsay in the context of the politics of the Popular Front, and identifies the aesthetic and historiographic debates questions that inform Lindsay’s inventive rendition of the historical novel. The novel may be considered in light of what Lindsay later called his desire ‘to use the novel to revive revolutionary traditions’, as well as his ‘struggle to achieve an understanding of the Novel while writing novels’. Lindsay’s novel figures a reality becoming prosaic: it reproduces contemporary textual sources – tracts, pamphlets, newspapers – as part of its meditation on a nascent print culture whose products circulate in processes that mirror the increasingly conspicuous flow of commodities. In this sense, the novel offers a marxist reflection on its own conditions of possibility in emergent bourgeois culture, as well as intervening in the vexed question of the Civil War as a ‘bourgeois revolution’. The novel however seeks to capture a dialectical method of representing the revolution that acknowledges defeat while rearticulating the utopian content of the defeated radicals, a practice integral to Lindsay’s vision of popular history as a transhistorical dialogue. That utopian content is transmitted through two forms: popular song, which acts to supplement political writing; and the heroic portrayal of the Leveller John Lilburne on trial, whose conduct exemplifies praxis conceived as a unity of word, thought and action.