The Student Historical Journal: Loyala University, Vol.18 (1987)
For us in the comparative freedom of today it is difficult to appreciate in full the courage of these men, these near-slaves, who dared stand erect and chatter of their rights against their masters and the familiars of God. Although with their tongues they might submit so that the irons should be struck from them, their spirit remained unbroken, while pathetically they believed in justice in an unjust world, of being able to fight like men against their enemies in power. The English Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 erupted suddenly, but not without warning.
The seeds of dissent fell from the tree that was medieval society itself and were watered by the continuous oppression of the poor in towns as well as the countryside by those in power. Artisans, parish priests, poor city workers, and even small traders rose with the peasants in their call for the abolition of feudal obligations (serfdom) and the resulting economic/social injustice they had endured for so long. The wide variety of rebels indicates the tremendous level of dissatisfaction with the corruption in government and the confines of 14th century English society; this dissatisfaction indicates that the people were thinking and questioning instead of meekly accepting their role as a human beast without hope for a better life. The Revolt may have failed in its immediate goals, but it served as a link in the quest of the poor for emancipation from servitude, controlled wages, and unfair taxes. Their expression of concerns, desires, and demands was an example in courage, courage to challenge the strict boundaries of society.