Why Did the Peasants' Revolt in 1381?

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  • Topic: Peasants' Revolt, Richard II of England, Simon Sudbury
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  • Published : March 21, 2008
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The Peasants' Revolt, Tyler’s Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. The names of some of its leaders, John Ball, Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, are still familiar even though very little is actually known about these individuals.

Tyler's Rebellion is significant because it marked the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England. Tyler's Rebellion led to calls for the reform of feudalism in England and an increase in rights for the serf class.

Contents [hide]
1 Events leading to the revolt
2 First protests
3 Storming the Tower of London
4 Smithfield
5 The Cutty Wren
6 Literary mention
7 Further reading
8 Footnotes

[edit] Events leading to the revolt
The revolt was precipitated by heavy-handed attempts to enforce the third poll tax, first levied in 1377 supposedly to finance military campaigns overseas — a continuation of the Hundred Years' War initiated by King Edward III of England. The third poll tax, unlike the two earlier, was not levied on a flat rate basis (as in 1377) nor according to schedule (as in 1379), but in a manner that appeared more arbitrary and hence unfair: it was also set at 3 Groat compared with the 1377 rate of 1 groat. The young King, Richard II, was also another reason for the uprising, as he was only 14 at the time, and therefore unpopular men such as John of Gaunt (the acting regent), Simon Sudbury (Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury) and Sir Robert Hales (the Lord Treasurer, responsible for the poll tax) were left to rule instead, and many saw them as corrupt officials, trying to exploit the weakness of the King. A longer-term factor was the way the Statute of Labourers of 1351 was enforced. The Black Death that ravaged England in 1348 and 1349 had greatly reduced the labour force, and, as a consequence, labourers were able to demand enhanced terms and conditions. The Statute attempted to...
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