Sunday, May 3, 2015

Summer of blood - the Peasants' Revolt of 1381

Dan Jones has written an account of life in England during the latter part of the fourteenth century, particularly during the reign of Richard II. This was the time where wars with France were costing the country huge sums of money and, in order to pay for the shortfall, new poll taxes were imposed on the populace. Richard II inherited the throne when  his grandfather, Edward III, died. As he was only nine when he became king, several of his uncles, including John of Gaunt, Duke of Lancaster, helped him rule the country.

The fourteenth century saw the increase in the power of the Parliament in England resulting in rowdy discussion and complaints from the populace. After the plague had killed a large proportion of the population earlier in the century the power of peasants in regard to employment had increased. This was demonstrated when groups of peasants in parts of England began protesting about the new poll tax. Buildings and properties were destroyed and murders committed as groups of peasants marched towards London. One of the leaders of the peasants was a man named Wat Tyler while another was a preacher, John Ball.

In this book Dan Jones presents an account of the events leading up to to the peasant march on London in June 1381 when many major buildings were destroyed including the Savoy Palace, the London home of John of Gaunt. He describes the events leading to the revolt as well as the actions of the peasants and the reprisals when the revolt was over. This was a brief turbulent time in the history of England.

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