Feudalism was a popular system of government during the Middle Ages. It was a custom widely held throughout Europe, especially in England. Serfs would work the land for the vassals and lords who owned it in exchange for protection. Kent, Essex, Sussex, and Belford were counties which were obliged to serve their nobles more than any other county in England.

However, some people became upset and unsatisfied with this way of life. They were tired of being treated inferior and worked as slaves when their production of goods was low. Such a man was John Ball, a priest in Kent who was a vocal opponent of feudalism. He could be heard on Sundays after his sermons voicing his opinions to the commoners and serfs. The Archbishop of Canterbury imprisoned him several times for his reckless words. Unfortunately, this did not have the affect he desired. Ball continued his public speeches even more frequently.

After Ball's last imprisonment of three months, he along with Jack Straw and Wat Tyler inspired more than thirty thousand men to join their crusade. With the help of some upper class members, they were able to successfully march to London to see King Richard II. They wanted to see Richard to persuade him to change the current system into one that was fairer and treated everyone equally. Richard at first agreed to meet them, but later changed his mind.

When the peasants learned of Richard's resistance to their demands, they stormed London with the help of some sympathizers there. They carved a trail of death and destruction. Executed were prominent upper class lawyers and other officials. One wealthy citizen of London, Richard Lyon, was beheaded. He happened to be the man Tyler was a servant for during the wars in France. The wild frenzy continued in London until it was later crushed by Richard. (Froissant, Chronicles http://pluto.clinch.edu/history/wciv1/civ1ref/peasvolt.htm)

If you would like more information about the Peasant Revolt of 1381, visit the following links.


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