Why Are The Peasants So Revolting?

Peasant RevoltWe all know the peasants are revolting this year at the Sarasota Medieval Fair, but why? Well for those of you who haven’t already looked up the background of this year’s scenario, there were two main reasons: a medieval poll tax, and an unpopular law restricting wages and the mobility of labor.

One reason for the revolt was King Richard II’s attempted enforcement of a third medieval poll tax in 1380. That’s right, not the first or the second, but the third. Even before the invention of baseball, people had a “three strikes and you’re out” mentality. Another reason why this particular tax was so onerous was that it was set at 12 pence (three times the amount of the previous tax), and also that some of the poor could pay at a reduced rate whereas other who were equally poor had to pay the full tax. As one can imagine, many peasants were rather unhappy with this injustice, and it didn’t help that an unpopular regent was ruling in place of the 14-year-old king (yes, King Richard II was 14 years old at the time).

Reason number two had to do with the enforcement of an old, unpopular law. The Black Death happened 30 years prior and thus labor was in short supply. The work force took advantage of this by demanding higher wages, and even their freedom, which they often received. However, King Richard II was enforcing a law passed just a year after the end of the Black Death, which pegged wages to pre-plague levels and restricted the mobility of labor. During those 30 years, the peasants had been growing increasingly resentful of this law, and although things came to a head in 1381 on May 30th when a poll tax collector attempted to collect the tax from villagers at Fobbing, they will come to head this year on November 12th the first day of the Sarasota Medieval Fair.

Published in: on June 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm  Leave a Comment  

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