Peasants Revolt

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Peasants' Revolt. This rebellion in 1381 was the first large-scale popular uprising in England. It began in Essex, in the village of Fobbing. Kent soon followed, and the rebels moved rapidly to London. There were also significant risings in East Anglia, Bury St Edmunds, and St Albans. The rapidly changing economy, in the aftermath of the Black Death, provides one explanation for the rising; the inadequacy of the government, the church, and the failure of the war with France another. The spark to the revolt was provided by the third poll tax, which was to be levied uniformly at 1 shilling a head, and so bore particularly hard on the poor. Commissions to investigate the low level of returns provoked the Essex uprising. The rebellion took a dramatic and strongly political turn in London, where the rebels took and executed the archbishop of Canterbury, Simon Sudbury, the treasurer, and others. Radical demands were made by Wat Tyler, one of the peasant leaders, at Smithfield: serfdom was to be abolished; there was to be no law save the law of Winchester (an obscure request); outlawry was to be abandoned; lordship was to be divided between all men. There should be only one bishop, and one prelate; the wealth of the church should be distributed among the people. Wat Tyler was killed at this meeting. Resistance elsewhere in the country was short-lived. Perhaps the one lasting achievement of the revolt was that very few poll taxes were levied again in England for some 600 years.

Michael Prestwich

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Peasants' Revolt (1381) Rebellion in England. The immediate provocation was a poll tax (1380). Fundamental causes were resentment at feudal restrictions and statutory control of wages, which were held down artificially despite the shortage of labour after the Black Death. Roused by a rebel priest, John Ball, and led by Wat Tyler, the men of Kent marched into London, where they were pacified by Richard II. Promises to grant their demands were broken after they dispersed.

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Peasants' Revolt an uprising in 1381 among the peasant and artisan classes in England, particularly in Kent and Essex. The rebels marched on London, occupying the city and executing unpopular ministers, but after the death of their leader, Wat Tyler, they were persuaded to disperse by Richard II, who granted some of their demands, though the government later went back on its promises.