English Peasants' Revolt 1381

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  • Topic: Richard II of England, Smithfield, London, Henry IV of England
  • Pages : 6 (2004 words )
  • Download(s) : 738
  • Published : January 7, 2011
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This historical text was written by the monks from Evesham Abbey just after the uprising was stifled. These events took place on June 14th at a place called Smithfield, in the area of London and surrounding places due to the riots started around the south east of England and converged in London City.

What we can extract of this text is the way of how a young king, Henry II, with the most valuable help of William Walworth, Mayor of London, defeated the insurgents by killing their leader Wat Tyler.

The main idea we obtain of this writing is a formidable peasants’ army fighting for their freedom after being forced to be serfs by land owners and cut their incomes through low wages in order to raise benefits for their lords. But not only peasants upraised also artisans and skilled labourers inside cities

Additionally, the Church plays his own role. Some members of the Church support the fight of common people from parishes and beside them. Others protect the interest of the Church staying beside the King and protecting its incomes “…should be equality among all people save only the King…” “…clergy already in possession (of the goods of Holy Church) should have a sufficient sustenance from the endowments…”

The events related in this document have been highly contrasted by different sources. It is easy to find references through prestigious sources as it is the Britannica Encyclopedia, the National Archives or authors like Charles Oman, R.B. Dobson or Nigel Saul.

Concerning to the type of document under this analysis we could call it a chronicle, it is the most similar to a journalist medieval account of happenings, carried out by the usual notaries, the monk. But, in contrast to today readers, medieval readers and copies were not so numerous.

The document is recounted as a narrative description. The events happen chronologically with the recount of the incidents one after another. The gathering of the king and the peasants, the meeting between Henry II and Wat Tyler, the requests made to the king, the charges (near insults) of the valet shouted against Tyler. The reaction and dead of Tyler and the response of the commons attacking the king, the surrounding of peasants by Walworth’s forces and killing of their leaders and later persecution of them and finally the pardon of the king after receiving twenty shillings form every peasant, artisan, etc.

This revolt is directly related to other circumstances at that time in England. The Black Death of 1349 had decimated the English population with a shortage of between a third and a half of the labour force and available workers started to demand higher wages for their work. The English landowner elites, through Parliamentary legislation and royal decrees, sought to raise a poll tax (an equal individual head tax) on the English population. The aim of this poll tax was to finance the Hundred Year´s War and it was highly unfair because poor people had to pay the same than the rich people. Beside, royal decrees tried to return the wage levels for common people to that of before the Black Death and providing the nobility a rising in their incomes, recovering their lost capabilities for maintaining their manorial status. Because Richard was only ten when he ascended to the throne on Edward's death in 1377, a series of regal councils ran the English government in Richard's name.   More significantly, no official regent was appointed to rule during the period of Richard's minority. Unfortunately, despite the massive outlay of economic resources supporting it, the war was going badly. The Hundred Years’ War supposed both a huge amount of money and a constant drain of men and resources. This war was successful for England at first, but France recovering its strength started to gain terrain and finally drove England out of continental Europe.

The first known outbreak of violence occurred in the town of Brentwood in Essex County.   When officials attempted to collect the tax, the...
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