The English Peasant Uprising Essay

1897 words - 8 pages

The English Peasant Uprising was motivated by a growing contempt with the government and clergy following the Black Death which was finally set off by a series of immediate social and economic causes. A shortage of workers followed the Black Death with an estimated forty-five per cent of the population dying in England . As entire towns were either deserted or left devoid of life, rural peasants increased their mobility into major cities. This shortage of rural workers led to famine as fields were left to go fallow, placing further economic pressure on the peasant classes who survived as the price of food increased. Due to the lack of labourers, the labourers who survived demanded greater wages as they now had increased leverage over employers. This ultimately led to economic inflation due to the increased labour cost to the upper classes. This was met with resistance from King Edward III and parliament, who issued the Ordinance of Labourers 1349 and the Statute of Labourers 1351 in an attempt to fix workers’ rates to that of before the Black Death and prohibit an increase in wages beyond pre-established limits . This put great stress on the peasantry as they were forced to work throughout famine for greater hours for limited pay under inflated prices and seeded an antipathy for the government.

The general attitude towards the Church as an institution was also responsible for the English Peasant Uprising. At this time, the Church was still a major landowner with almost 60% of English land held by the Church . However, 40% of priests and monks died to the Black Death and the shortage of ecumenical authorities lead to good wages offered for people to step into the clergy . This lead many people unsuited to the roles of religious leaders entering those positions. Not only did the church hold a vast amount of land, but there representatives were increasingly uneducated, incompetent, brash and impious . Schools of thought such as held by the Lollards, followers of theologian and reformer John Wycliffe whom acted as lay preachers, were held responsible for the Uprising as they were critical of the church as an institution, particularly the concept of the Church owning land. As these Lollards travelled and preached their opposition to the Church as temporal power, they resonated with the peasants and became increasingly popular as unlike many of the priests and monks recruited after the Black Death, they were observed to be genuinely pious . The already solid dissatisfaction with the clergy only intensified with the imprisonment of a highly popular Lollard, John Ball. John Ball was imprisoned at Maidstone in Kent when he came into conflict with Simon of Sudbury Archbishop of Canterbury for lay preaching.

The Hundred Years war with France is still ongoing at this point which was also adding further pressure to the lower classes due to the taxes needed to fund it. The war was very expensive, which meant more taxes had to be put in place to...

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