Sunday, June 3, 2012

Occupy (Medieval) London! Part 2 (of 5)

The Peasants' Revolt--Other Causes

The lower classes were not just worked up by a sermon about social equality, or the statutes that tried to maintain wages at lower levels.

Poll Tax
At a time when annual taxation was unknown, the unexpected declaration of any tax could be a cause for concern: a tax that did not seem equitable was especially unwelcome. The Poll Tax of 1377 was a flat rate of 4 pence, and was do-able. Another poll tax in 1379, however, was not a flat rate, nor so small. Some of the poor were given reduced rates, but others had to pay the full rate of 12 pence, three times the rate of just two years earlier.

The King
Edward III died in 1377, leaving the throne to his grandson Richard II, aged 10. In 1381, the king being only 14, the country was still being run by regents who were considered unpopular, including the Archbishop of Canterbury (Simon Sudbury) who was considered the embodiment of a corrupt church, and the Lord Treasurer (Sir Robert Hales), who instituted the poll taxes. The air of majesty that surrounded a king still existed for the masses, and they considered the authority of these other lords (who included the king's uncle, John of Gaunt) improper.

These factors were already reflected in some acts of social unrest taking place in the spring and summer of 1381. More on them tomorrow.

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