1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt

1381: The Year of the Peasants' Revolt1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt by Juliet Barker

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To be honest, I didn’t read the whole book. I made it to page 212 and then jumped to the last chapter. I’m sure this is an excellent and well-researched historical study, but it just was dense and dry. I’m looking more for a good story, not a recital of fact after fact. I couldn’t keep track of all the names without some kind of thread to follow. I liked the political and economic background, but then I just got bogged down in all the minutiae. To be fair, I’m reviewing for a public library audience, not an academic one. The color plates are nice, lots of notes, and yay! a bibliography, but what it really could have used were maps.

Book description: Barker tells how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England―from servants and laborers living off wages, through the village elite who served as bailiffs, constables, and stewards, to the ranks of the gentry―united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and gives depth and texture to the historical narrative. Among the book’s arguments are that the rebels believed they were the loyal subjects of the king acting in his interests, and that the boy-king Richard II sympathized with their grievances.

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