On This Day: May 30th

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On the 30th of May the Peasants’ Revolt broke out in England, the revolt had a number of causes including tensions from the Black Death in the 1340’s, the Hundred Years’ War, the instability of local leadership in London and the economic problems across the country. The final trigger for the revolt was the intervention of a royal official, John Bampton, in Essex on 30 May 1381. His attempts to collect unpaid poll taxes in Brentwood ended in a violent confrontation, which rapidly spread across the south-east of the country. A wide spectrum of rural society, including many local artisans and village officials, rose up in protest, burning court records and opening the local gaols. The rebels sought a reduction in taxation, an end to the system of unfree labour known as serfdom and the removal of the King’s senior officials and law courts.

The rebel leaders were cleric John Ball and Wat Tyler who led a contingent of rebels during the revolt. On 15 June, Richard left the city to meet with Tyler and the rebels at Smithfield. Violence broke out, and Richard’s party killed Tyler. Richard defused the tense situation long enough for London’s mayor, William Walworth, to gather a militia from the city and disperse the rebel forces. Between the mid and end of 1381, Richard mobilised 4000 soldiers to restore order. Most of the rebel leaders were tracked down and executed; by November, at least 1500 rebels had been killed.

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