The Peasants


The Peasants' Revolt ends

Faringdon, London The 15th of June 1381 AD

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 brought an increasingly unstable political and economic situation to a violent head.

The Black Death had reduced the labour force, but the normal effects of supply and demand were negated by laws holding down wages and preventing movement of workers. The king, Richard II , was a boy of 14, whose counsellors were running the country, amid tales of corruption and greed. His regent, John of Gaunt, was unpopular throughout the land.

The match was set to this political bonfire by the imposition of the third poll tax. The poll taxes of 1377 and 1379 had been seen as reasonably fair and not very onerous. The 1381 levy was higher, and the people were tiring of financing foreign wars.

When government officials arrived at Brentwood in Essex to collect the tax they were repulsed. When they returned six of the clerks were beheaded and the rest chased off again. The trouble flared elsewhere, in Kent where Wat Tyler took the lead, and throughout East Anglia. Other leaders such as Jack Straw joined the cause.

The rebels moved on London, where radical preacher John Ball inflamed them further with his famous sermon asking: “When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?” The revolt had changed from a tax protest to revolution. The rebels demanded a return to perceived fairer laws from long-past times; an end to serfdom; participation in government; and church wealth to be given to the common people.

On 14 June a mob broke into the Tower of London , killing Simon of Sudbury (Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor), and the Treasurer, Hales. Richard in a panic agreed to abolish serfdom and revise his tax policy. Pardons were granted to the leaders.

The following day Wat Tyler rode to Smithfield to meet the king for further discussions, leaving the mob some distance away from the parlay. It is said he was belligerent and rude, demanding drink brusquely. The Lord Mayor of London William Walworth stabbed Tyler in the neck when the rebel drew his dagger, and a squire to Richard, Ralph de Standish, finished him with a sword through the stomach.

Richard had the presence of mind to wrong-foot the mob, saying Tyler had been knighted, and they were to go to St John’s Fields to meet their leader. Famously Richard shouted the ambiguous but high-sounding words: “You shall have no captain but me,” to the rebels at this point.

Loyal forces were rapidly gathered, an army of 7,000, and the rebels were reduced to a rabble. John Ball, Jack Straw and other leaders were caught and executed. Richard denied having made concessions. Pardons were revoked. The revolt ended as quickly as it started. But the poll tax did not reappear for many many years.

More famous dates here

18343 views since 27th February 2007


From bob on 22nd November 2012
when did the peasants revolt start and end

Brit Quote:
There is only one class in the community that thinks more about money than the rich, and that is the poor - Oscar Wilde
More Quotes

On this day:
Battle of Harlaw - 1411, Mary Queen of Scots abdicates - 1567, Gibraltar Seized - 1704, Speaking Clock Introduced - 1936
More dates from British history

click here to view all the British counties

County Pages