Friday, June 14, 2013

The Other Peasants' Revolts

The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 was mentioned last year over a five-day span, but the events in London weren't the only expression of lower class unrest that month. Word of the rebellion in London sparked similar group actions elsewhere in the kingdom. Revolts took place in Bury St. Edmunds, Cambridgeshire, Ipswich, St. Albans, Thetford, and numerous other locales. At a time when 90% of the population was agrarian and existing in a system in which they could feel controlled and oppressed, it was easy to get large crowds stirred up. The ruling minority, on the other hand, took a little longer to muster an armed resistance capable of suppressing the rioting.

In the north of England, for instance, word of rebellion in London reached John of Gaunt on June 17 in Berwick-on-Tweed on the border of Scotland. He was too far from London to do anything about the events there, but he sent messengers to his castles in Yorkshire and Wales to be alert. By this time, Wat Tyler had been killed in London a few days before, and the Revolt there was being dispersed, but John did not know that.

Also on the 17th, word of the revolt came to York, inspiring the lower classes to attack the estates held by Dominicans and Franciscans. York and Scarborough were in upheaval for months until the established authorities were able to re-assert control with the help of armed men.

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