Battles involving England - Peasants' Revolt

The Black Death had hit England in 1348 and 1349, and killed many people. This meant that the labour force was less. Peasants used this fact to bargain for better wages and conditions. In 1351, Edward III summoned parliament to pass the Statute of Labourers, which attempted to curb these demands. The king, Richard II was young. England was ruled by a group of nobles who were unpopular. These included John of Gaunt (the acting regent), Simon Sudbury (Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Chancellor) and Sir Robert Hales (the Lord Treasurer).

A poll tax (tax per head) had been imposed in 1377 to pay for the Hundred Years War. In 1381, villages in Essex refused to pay this tax. People from Essex, led by Jack Straw, and Kent, led by Wat Tyler, marched on London. John Ball, a Lollard priest, preached that class distinctions were wrong, saying "When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?"

Storming of the Tower of London 1381 (location)

A group of rebels stormed the Tower of London and executed those hiding there, including the Lord Chancellor (Simon of Sudbury) and the Lord Treasurer (Robert de Hales), who were both associated with the poll tax.

The next day, there was a meeting between the rebels and the king, Richard II. There was a dispute, and Wat Tyler was killed. Immediately, there was uproar by the rebels, but the king rode foreward and said "You shall have no captain but me". He promised them that their demands should be met. However, the leaders of the revolt were executed, including Jack Straw and John Ball, and the peasants gained nothing.

Death of Wat Tyler, from manuscript 1385-1400
Death of Wat Tyler, from manuscript 1385-1400

However, the revolt did mark the beginning of the end of serfdom in medieval England, and a change in feudalism.

Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) mentions Jack Straw, one of the leaders of the Revolt, in The Nun's Priest's Tale in The Canterbury Tales. He is talking about people chasing a fox which is stealing a chicken.
Certes he, Jacke Straw, and his meinie,
Ne made never shoutes half so shrill
When that they woulden any Fleming kill,
As thilke day was made upon the fox.

Wikipedia (external site) for further information       -       Battles index