Assignment Two – HIST 304
The Peasant’s Revolt and The Decline of Serfdom
Why did the Peasants’ Revolt Occur? Did the insurgents hope to abolish serfdom? How and why did serfdom decline and eventually disappear in England, notwithstanding the failure of the 1381 uprising and other influences of lower class protest against social inequality and injustice?
Naomi Woods Student 297278812/22/2011
The Peasants Revolt is one of the most well known revolts of Medieval England, the revolt began as a local revolt in Essex in May of 1381, but it soon spread throughout the South East of England affecting many smaller towns along the way and having the biggest impact on London when the people turned their grievances towards the young King Richard II. This revolt was not a planned revolt but rather a spontaneous revolt fuelled by numerous grievances and sparked by the poll tax Parliament had introduced to help pay for the war in France.
Incidences in the villages of Fobbing and Brentwood in Essex are said to have triggered the uprising. On 30 May 1381 a tax collector attempted to collect the poll tax from the villagers of Fobbing, the villagers, lead by a local land owner refused to pay and he was forced to leave empty handed, later Robert Belknap (Chief Justice of the Court of Common Pleas) arrived to investigate and punish the offenders, On June 2 he was attacked in Brentwood. By this time the counties of Essex and Kent were in full revolt the peasants and artisans of Essex demanded the King to completely abolish serfdom and the commutation of the servile dues to a rent of four pence an acre, the revolt was also said to be sparked by the passage of the poll tax and many other numerous grievances the people had. These peasants marched into London led by Wat Tyler, John Ball and Jack Straw to present a petition calling for the abolition of serfdom to the King. The peasants had strong hopes of abolishing serfdom, but the King was never able to reach them due to the crowds and so on June 13 1381 the Peasants Revolt began. Wat Tyler, was documented by Sir John Frossiart as the “chief of the three, had been a tiler of houses, a bad man and a great enemy to the nobility of the revolt, he was the one who met with the King to tell of the people’s wishes to get rid of villiens and many other things. Not much is known about Wat Tyler except that he was a bad man and an enemy to the noble, but we can make the assumption that he must have been a confident, well liked and looked up to, as it was he who the people chose to lead them in their revolt. John Ball, was documented by Sir John Froissart, in Chronicles of England, France, Spain and the Adjoining Countries “as being a crazy priest in the county of Kent”, “who for his absurd preaching had thrice been confined in prison by the Archbishop of Canterbury”, had much to do with bringing forth the rebellious ideas. Ball gave the famous speech which was said to ignite the flames already burning deep down inside the people of Kent; “When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman. From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen and from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may (if ye will) cast off the yoke of bondage, an recover liberty” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Ball_(priest)
Some Historians believe that he urged his followers to kill those who were in the upper class. His words to the peasants said that they were equal to the upper classes (nobles, lords etc...) and that if God has wanted the class differences he would have made them upon creation of men, but God wanted each person to be the same and for each person to be free. Being a priest, people looked up to John Ball and believed in...
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