Peasants' Revolt

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The Peasants' Revolt, Wat Tyler's Rebellion, or the Great Rising of 1381 was one of a number of popular revolts in late medieval Europe and is a major event in the history of England. Tyler's Rebellion was not only the most extreme and widespread insurrection in English history but also the best-documented popular rebellion ever to have occurred during medieval times. The names of some of its leaders, John Ball, Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, are still familiar in popular culture, although little is known of them.

The revolt later came to be seen as a mark of the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England, although the revolt itself was a failure. It increased awareness in the upper classes of the need for the reform of feudalism in England and the appalling misery felt by the lower classes as a result of their enforced near-slavery.

Contents

Events leading to the revolt

The poll tax

The revolt was precipitated by King Richard II's heavy-handed attempts to enforce the third medieval poll tax, first levied in 1377 supposedly to finance military campaigns overseas.[1] The third poll tax was not levied at a flat rate (as in 1377) nor according to schedule[2] (as in 1379); instead. it allowed some of the poor to pay a reduced rate, while others who were equally poor had to pay the full tax, prompting calls of injustice. The tax was set at three groats (equivalent to 12 pence or one shilling), compared with the 1377 rate of one groat (four pence). The youth of King Richard II (aged only 14) was another reason for the uprising: a group of unpopular men dominated his government. These included John of Gaunt (the acting regent), Simon Sudbury (Lord Chancellor and Archbishop of Canterbury, who was the figurehead to what many then saw as a corrupt Church) and Sir Robert Hales (the Lord Treasurer, responsible for the poll tax). Many saw them as corrupt officials, trying to exploit the weakness of the King.[citation needed]

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