3Why did the peasants revolt? I might be a humble villein, but I survived the plague when many did not.Why should I be afraid of the lord of the manor when I’ve faced down King Death!I want more money to farm the lord’s land, I want to pay lower rent and I want more freedom.If the lord does not agree I’ll walk away. After all, there are others who need men to work – perhaps they will not be as stubborn!What does this peasant tell you about how he felt life had changed?
4Why did the peasants revolt? Medieval kings were used to the threat of rebellion – it was almost part of their job – but rebellions tended to come from barons or lords, not from the ordinary people.In 1381 the peasants of England were angry. They revolted and demanded that the king make radical changes to the country.What made them want to revolt?
5Why did the peasants revolt? After the Black Death, peasants started demanding higher wages and more freedom. Not everyone thought that they were entitled to these. Who do you think might disagree with the peasants?The lords of the manors and the barons were not impressed. They decided to pass the Statute of Labourers in This said that wages had to be at pre-plague levels and that it was a crime to ask for or pay more.Do you think this was fair?
6Was the Church rich or poor? Changing ideasThere were also changes in the way people viewed the world. Many who had survived the plague decided that things should change.One new idea was sharing the wealth. The Church said it was God’s will that there be rich and poor – the peasants didn't think that this was very fair!Was the Church rich or poor?Then the king’s counsellors decided to try out a new tax called the poll tax. It was levied in 1377 and again in 1379 and 1380.
7How would that make you feel? Changing ideasUnder the 1380 poll tax everyone paid the same, regardless of how rich or poor they were.This meant that if you were a peasant you would pay the same amount as the lord you worked for.How would that make you feel?Some radical preachers, like John Ball, began giving sermons (speeches) to ordinary people, saying that they should go to the king and complain that they were being treated unfairly.
9Would you have avoided the tax if you had lived then? The poll taxThe introduction of the poll tax was the final straw for many peasants, who saw it as the rich trying to make the lives of the poor even harder.Few peasants could afford the tax. When officials came round, they hid or lied about the number in their family.So many people avoided paying in 1381, that the tax collectors recorded that a third of the population had ‘disappeared’. Commissioners were sent out to catch the tax dodgers.When considering this question, it is important to remember that tax dodging was a crime for which peasants were liable to be punished. Consider a situation in which the whole community refused to pay, rather than just an individual. How did this pose problems for the authorities?Would you have avoided the tax if you had lived then?
14The peasants’ demands The peasants demanded: the abolition of ‘oppressive statutes’ – like the Statute of Labourersthat everyone who had taken part in the rebellion should be given a free pardonthat labour services should be abolished, and peasants should pay a low, fixed rent – this meant that all villeins would be freethat the king’s advisers should be punished.King Richard was only 14 years old at the time.Why do you think the rebels did not blame him for their problems?
15London riotsOn 14th June the king agreed to have charters written granting the peasants’ requests, except the one regarding punishment of his advisers.Most of the Essex villagers went home, but some of those from Kent went to the Tower of London and executed the Archbishop of Canterbury, the treasurer and John of Gaunt’s doctor.Riots occurred throughout London.The king invited the rebels to meet him again at Smithfield on the following day.
17according to John Froissart. Richard’s braveryThe peasants were furious when they saw their leader was dead. They were about to attack when the king rode forward and said:Sirs, will youshoot your king?I will be your chief and captain, you shall have from me that which you seek. Only follow me…according to John Froissart.What sort of picture does this source paint of Richard?
18After the revoltAs soon as the rebels had left, the king started to break the promises he had made to them.Rebels were rounded up and executed. John Ball was found and his head was cut off and displayed on a spike on London Bridge.According to the chronicler Thomas Walsingham, Richard said to the rebels he caught:Oh you wretched men … Villeins you were and villeins you shall remain.Was Richard a coward or was he brave?Do you think his actions were sensible?