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What did you like most about England, Arise?
Peasants Revolt was about many things and it was fought by many people but it was not fought by or for peasants. Amazing how myths are created and how they have their own lives. Jack Cade, John Bull, Watt Tyler - names we all know and yet we actually know nothing about their actions. Or lack of it as it turns out.
What did you like best about this story?
Debunking myths, sieving through ghost stories and taking people out of the picture they were firmly stuck in.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Yes. And I did. Save for a loo, food and sleep. Scratch that, I listened in the bathroom and while eating.
Any additional comments?
It's amazing that this book can be a scholarly work and a really entertaining political thriller at the same time. You can make notes or just enjoy listening. Rare feat indeed.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
Juliet Barker paints a beautifully detailed portrait of life in medieval England as the aftermath of the Black Death lead to what we now call the Peasant's Revolt. With a radically reduced population, the great landowners amongst the nobles and religious orders found that everyone from peasants to prosperous local gentry wanted higher payment for their work, more freedom to own land and work it and a greater say in the running of the country.
Meanwhile, the King wanted to raise taxes for this failing war in France. The solution they reached for was a disasterous combination of massively increasing taxes while screwing down wages the "Statute of Labourers" which limited what could be paid to every sort of working person. Barker has done a Herculean amount of research to bring this lot to life and she does it brilliantly. One example is her story of the futility of the statute of labourers as illustrated by the Burgesses of Gloucester who wanted to erect some stocks in the town square to punish anyone who flouted the wage limits in the statute. The problem they faced was that no carpenter would do the job for the legal rate. So in the end they broke the statute, paid him his asking price and got their stocks. This is just one of a range of stories which bring the dispute to life and made me surprisingly angry on the part of the rebels.
In telling the story of the revolt through the experiences of real people Barker also paints a highly convincing picture of what life was like at every level of society so this works a little like a deeper, more rigorous version of "The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England". The production itself is also excellent. Can't recommend this highly enough to history fans.
9 of 10 people found this review helpful