The Peasantís Revolt - History Homework


Peasants rebelled in 1381 because they hated the laws, and because they despised the Statute of Labourers. The villeins believed that the Statute had been devised to take away the freedom they had acquired after the Black Death. They also detested the new tax. Even more so, they hated the laws banning them from moving without the local lordís permission. But the thing they hated the most were their strenuous duties on the farm. They worked countless hours-almost for nothing-because the new tax took away the majority of the money they had earned. Great parchments locked away in the manor house outlined their tasks. Some peasants had managed to save money year after year, and began to pay the lord to be excused from their duties. But now, after the Black Death, this had been disallowed. What the villeins wanted now was freedom, and they would go to any lengths to get it.


In 1380, the Kingís minister demanded that everyone pay a tax of one shilling-a huge sum for a peasant. This was the final straw. Following the lead of Wat Tyler (a brickmaker), and John Ball (a priest), the villeins of Kent and Essex rose up in rebellion against the laws. In May 1831, peasants armed themselves with bows, scythes, sticks and anything possible to force the King to rid himself of his power hungry counsellors. The rebels marched into London brandishing weapons and screaming with fury. As the journey progressed, the peasants destroyed the manors containing the villeinís duty parchments. Sometimes, they even murdered the lords themselves! The petrified King and his counsellors stood and watched the army march ever closer, seeing the hatred in their eyes. Eventually, after the peasants had finished their destroying spree, the King (Richard, a teenager) offered them their demands and freeing them from their duties. They accepted, and it seemed everything was once again settled. But this was not to last. The counsellors withdrew their promises and murdered Tyler. Richard tried to stop them, but they overruled him. He was deposed and imprisoned in Pontefract Castle in 1399, where he died a year later.


What did they achieve? It seems that the villeins did achieve something. The peasants did achieve freedom, but it did not last. As the revolt was defeated, it seemed that everything was back where it started. The country was falling apart-the knights were cowards and the peasants worked half-heartedly and slowly. So the nobles sacked them. They then employed full-time labourers. But the peasants still wanted freedom. The nobles feared more trouble. So, although the revolt seemed unsuccessful, it was the events after the revolt that seized the peasantís freedom. It had finally come through-the taste of freedom.