The revolt of 1381 by tens of thousands of peasants shook England’s rulers. This new edition of Mark O’Brien’s short but powerful book recognises the importance of this entry of the poor into English history.
England was dominated by the king; lords and the church reached into every area of the peasants’ lives. The authorities imposed a poll tax on people to help finance wars against France.
The situation of unfree peasants or “villeins” was grim. They owned “nothing but their bellies”. There were laws on what they could wear, and on what and when they could eat.