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The Great Rising of 1381

The Peasants Revolt and England's Failed Revolution

By (author) Alasdair Dunn
Format: Paperback
Publisher: The History Press Ltd, Stroud, United Kingdom
Imprint: NPI Media Group
Published: 1st Jun 2002
Dimensions: w 172mm h 248mm
ISBN-10: 0752423231
ISBN-13: 9780752423234
Barcode No: 9780752423234

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Kirkus UK
King Richard II found the peasants revolting in every sense - and for a while it seemed it might cost him his crown. Eventually he resorted to murder in order to impose his will, but never again would an English monarch feel entirely at ease in disregarding the feelings of the common people. It can even be argued that the Peasants' Revolt set in motion events that led to the democratic process we have today. Alastair Dunn, lecturer in British Mediaeval History at the University of St Andrews, shows that trouble had been brewing in the English countryside long before the rising of 1381 although there is precious little contemporary account of it. Mediaeval writers were without exception scholars in thrall to the King, and it was in their interests to portray the serfs as loyal but unimaginative types without ambition. The reality was different. Dunn reveals that these were people very much like us - they wanted the best for their families and resented high taxation and unfairness in all its forms. Bitterness simmered for many years and the poor people were kept in their place only by threat of arms. The effects on morale of plague, famine, war and ever-increasing taxation reached a peak when the 14-year-old Richard II sent out his taxmen to collect a poll tax. The build-up of events is graphically described, the motives of peasants' ringleaders Wat Tyler, John Ball and Jack Straw examined, and the arrogance of the King shown in its breathtaking gall. Dunn also shows how the peasants' uprising was used by wealthy merchants and others for their own nefarious ends. The King's treachery towards the peasants' leaders and his later involvement in their degradation is covered in detail, leading to the book's final section in which we see how an uneasy peace came to be imposed. Dunn has marshalled his facts meticulously and presents them in a scholarly way that some readers could find hard going. As a work of social and political history, however, this is a definitive guide to that black period of English life. (Kirkus UK)