1381: The Year of the Peasants' Revolt

Overview

Written with the fluency readers have come to expect from Juliet Barker, 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt provides an account of the first great popular uprising in England and its background, and paints on a broad canvas a picture of English life in medieval times. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and ...

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Overview

Written with the fluency readers have come to expect from Juliet Barker, 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt provides an account of the first great popular uprising in England and its background, and paints on a broad canvas a picture of English life in medieval times. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and gives depth and texture to the historical narrative. Among the book’s arguments are that the rebels believed they were the loyal subjects of the king acting in his interests, and that the boy-king Richard II sympathized with their grievances.

Barker tells how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England—from servants and laborers living off wages, through the village elite who served as bailiffs, constables, and stewards, to the ranks of the gentry—united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt is an important reassessment of the uprising and a fascinating, original study of medieval life in England’s towns and countryside.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/25/2014
In this excellent in-depth examination of the Peasants Revolt in England at the time of Richard II, Barker (Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England) shatters the popular image of grubby serfs armed with pitchforks challenging authority. Using the many records of the time, Barker establishes the background to the revolt, distinguishing individual actors rather than seeing “the peasants” as a unit. Following the steep decrease in population after the plague years, local industry and general literacy increased. However, commoners in both town and country found that their wages did not increase and new taxes were being imposed to support the ongoing war in France. Reaction to this came not from the poorest citizens but from “those who... had managed to build up a larger than average landholding or a modestly successful business.” Exploitation by the aristocracy was compounded by a general belief, borne from experience, that local officials were corrupt. Barker details the course of the revolt from the agitators’ initial success in getting concessions from Richard II through its ultimate failure. Fascinating and informative, Barker’s authoritative analysis of this medieval crisis takes on a haunting resonance in the modern day. (Oct.)
The Economist
Praise for Juliet Barker's Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England: [Barker’s] book is quite wonderfully vivid, clear and involving. She never forgets that a military campaign is made up of human beings.
The New York Times - William Grimes
Praise for Juliet Barker's Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England: [A] thoroughly engrossing study of Henry and the battle that made him… [Barker’s] expertise greatly enriches the narrative.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674368149
  • Publisher: Harvard
  • Publication date: 11/24/2014
  • Pages: 528

Meet the Author

Juliet Barker is one of Britain's most distinguished literary biographers and medievalists and author of Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England.
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