Norfolk, 1382: A Sequel to the Peasants’ Revolt
By Herbert Eiden
The English Historical Review, Vol. 114, No. 456. (1999)
Introduction: In parts of England the unrest and discontent which had found an outlet in the Peasants’ Revolt did not end with the revolt’s collapse in the summer of 1381. There were a number of further instances of individual and collective resistance by tenants to their landlords as well as attempts to revive the revolt on a broader scale.
Establishing the background of these incidents, however, is difficult. After the rising, justices and jurors, ‘sensitized’ by the events of 1381, classified gang-robberies, crimes of violence, looting or other misdeeds as insurrection, revolt or treason. Prior to that, such offences would have been dealt with as felony or trespass.
Even a cursory survey of the gaol delivery rolls and other judicial records subsequent to the revolt reveals a large number of such cases in the counties. For example, in March 1383 at least five ‘insurrectores’ attempted to kill the sheriff of Devon in Tawstock. The jurors considered this as insurrection and treason, whereas the murder of a royal tax-collector in Goldworthy (Devon) was tried only as felonia. In the neighbouring county of Cornwall two people accused of the looting of houses in St Ive and Pillaton in August 1382 were not charged simply with felony but with the more serious count of treason for inciting a new rising.
Similar cases can be found in the years following the revolt in Hampshire, Buckinghamshire, Herefordshire, Northamptonshire, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, Essex and Kent. But it is questionable whether these actions can be regarded as ‘revolts’ and whether the perpetrators intended to resume the kind of resistance seen in 1381.