Two major events occurred in the Middle-ages. (The period of time in Britain that began in 1066 and ended in 1485) These events were the Black Death and the Peasant’s Revolt. (Also known as the Great Revolt) These were both very important events and hugely affected the lives of the ordinary people living in that period. But which was more significant? In this essay I will explain the two events and give my opinion on which event was more significant. The first of the two events was the Black Death. The Black Death was a terrible plague that happened in the 1300s. The disease spread from nation to nation, killing millions of people and seriously affecting their lives especially Britain. It is thought to be one of the most devastating plagues in human history. It is thought to have begun in the mid 1340’s in China, caused by dirty rodents who had infected fleas. The fleas travelled through Asia and lived on Rats and all sorts of other creatures. Some of these creatures became passengers on merchant ships that sailed to Europe. This caused Europe to become infected with the deadly disease. Around 1348, the Black Death reached England and in a year it was all over the country. The people of the middle ages called it the pestilence and they had no idea what it was and how to treat it. People thought that it was a punishment from God. In the end about ½ of the population died and making it one of the worst bubonic plagues ever in human history. It took the country over 100 years to recover from this disaster. The next event was the peasant’s revolt. This happened in June 1381 and it involved thousands of peasants who gathered and travelled to London to protest about their freedom and the poll tax King Edward III had issued. The poll tax was a tax where everybody had to pay the same no matter if they were rich or poor. A lot of people didn’t like this but they had kept quiet about it and paid the tax for some time. Eventually, people who were poor hid from the tax collectors and didn’t pay the tax. The government found out that people were hiding and started punishing them. People were outraged by this and decided to listen no more. A man called Walter (Wat) Tyler who was one of the common people, decided that it wasn’t fair so he gathered peasants, common people and soldiers and they marched all the way to London from the county in Essex, protesting, gathering more people and destroying buildings on the way there. They got to London on June 12thand demanded to speak to King Richard II, who was only 14 at the time, to ask to stop the poll tax, to have equality and various other demands. The King didn’t come out until a day later and Wat and the King talked about the issues the peasants had. Meanwhile, a group of rebels stormed the Tower of London and killed all the people that hid there, including: the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury (who was involved with the poll tax), the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Treasurer. As talks with the King continued, things did not go according to plan. Walter Tyler was killed by a knight when he rudely addressed the King and pulled out a dagger. This led to the dispersal of the rebels. Most of the leaders of the rebellion were pursued, captured and killed and the King’s concessions were revoked. The Peasants revolt was unsuccessful. Another reason people think the peasant’s revolt started was because of the Black Death. After the Black Death, there was a lot of free land to grow crops on because many of the people had died. The peasants asked their lords if they could take the land to use for themselves, making them richer. The lords said no because they lost a lot of money after the Black Death. This outraged many of the peasants but they continued to live out their unhappy lives. This leaves a question. Would the Peasant’s Revolt have happened if the Black Death hadn’t have happened? I will compare the two events to see which one is more significant by examining how the events affected people’s lives and seeing how much it affected the following things: War, Wages, Homes, Clothes and Food, Ideas and Religion, Freedom and Population. At the end I will give a conclusion on which event was more significant to the lives of ordinary people and why.
The Black Death affected War as the Hundred years’ war between Britain and France was suspended in 1348. (The year the Black Death got to Britain) Many soldiers died of the deadly plague but the war resumed in 1356. The Peasants revolt didn’t really affect war even though the hundred years’ war was still going on. The Black Death affected war the most.
Many people died from the Black Death so there were more job opportunities for freemen and, there was a lot of free land that had belonged to the people that died, which meant the peasants could earn more money. In the peasant’s revolt, wages were slightly affected because people demanded higher wages. Overall, however, the Black Death had a greater impact on wages.
The Black Death didn’t really affect the freedom of the peasants. After the Black Death some people did ask for freedom, but they were ignored. The Peasant’s Revolt was all about peasants wanting freedom. Even though the peasants did not attain their freedom, the Peasant’s revolt had a greater effect on freedom than the Black Death.
Homes, Clothes and Food:
The Black Death did affect food. Because a lot of people were sick, food couldn’t be transported to Britain. People were also less able to grow their crops; there were fewer people to build houses and make clothes. The Peasant’s Revolt didn’t really affect any of these things, however with the rioting, a few houses were probably destroyed. I believe the Black Death affected Homes, Clothes and Food more.
Ideas and Religion:
People had no idea where the Black Death came from or why it happened because back then, people didn’t know anything about Bubonic Plagues and how to treat them. Most people thought the Black Death was a punishment from God because they had committed too many sins. People who believed in this theory were called flagellants and travelled from town to town whipping themselves, telling God they were sorry. This only spread the disease even more. Some people even thought that it was because of the Jews; so they burned all the Jews they could find. In the Peasants Revolt, religion wasn’t really significant, however one of the key members of the revolt was a man called John Ball who was a priest. John Ball lived in Kent and claimed that all people should be free. However I believe that religion had a greater impact than the Black Death.
Population was probably affected the most by the Black Death because 25-50 million people died in Europe let alone the rest of the world. In the United Kingdom, an estimated ½ to 2/3 of the population is thought to have died. In the Peasant’s Revolt no one died except the people that were executed, so, in conclusion, population had a bigger impact in the Black Death than the Peasant’s Revolt. Conclusion:
I believe that the Black Death had a more significant effect on the lives of ordinary people. More people died because of the Black Death. Also it was more significant because the Black Death affected the whole world and the Peasant’s Revolt only affected a part of Britain. Some people say that the Peasant’s Revolt is more significant because it was the first time in human history that ordinary people stood up to their leaders. It could be said that it was the start of the British Democracy that we have today. Overall, I still think that the Black Death was more significant to the lives of ordinary people.