Written with the fluency readers have come to expect from Juliet Barker, 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt provides an account of the first great popular uprising in England and its background, and paints on a broad canvas a picture of English life in medieval times. Skeptical of contemporary chroniclers’ accounts of events, Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion. This emphasis offers a fresh perspective on the so-called Peasants’ Revolt and gives depth and texture to the historical narrative. Among the book’s arguments are that the rebels believed they were the loyal subjects of the king acting in his interests, and that the boy-king Richard II sympathized with their grievances.
Barker tells how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England―from servants and laborers living off wages, through the village elite who served as bailiffs, constables, and stewards, to the ranks of the gentry―united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. 1381: The Year of the Peasants’ Revolt is an important reassessment of the uprising and a fascinating, original study of medieval life in England’s towns and countryside.
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Juliet Barker is one of Britain’s most distinguished literary biographers and medievalists and author of Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle That Made England.Review:
Barker’s thorough, clear-eyed and intelligent new volume adds much to the field: packed with vivid pen portraits of the rebels and the men they hunted, and with several interesting new arguments about key figures and moments in the rebellion...She succeeds in painting a vivid and exciting portrait of a country in angry upheaval. It is as timely subject matter as ever. (Dan Jones Sunday Times 2014-10-05)
Brilliant...[Barker] gives a richly detailed account of the England of 1381 based on painstaking detective work, and resurrects from obscurity the ordinary men and women who enflamed the country for a few weeks in June. (Ben Wilson The Times 2014-10-18)
Barker’s book is a thorough and workmanlike study...offering a close look at what things were actually like. (Eric Christiansen New York Review of Books 2015-07-09)
Juliet Barker has written a splendid account of the events of 1381 and their wider context, enlivened with many arresting anecdotes...Throughout the book, Barker challenges conventional assumptions about the uprising. She stresses how little is actually known of the alleged leaders of the revolt. (David Carpenter London Review of Books 2016-06-02)
The events of 1381 have long fascinated historians...In her deeply researched and exceptionally well-illustrated book, Juliet Barker indeed tells the story, but unpicks many of the assumptions behind it. (Tom Shippey Books & Culture 2015-03-01)
An accomplished historian, Barker has produced a carefully researched, vividly narrated account of the most serious and widespread popular uprising in English history, the so-called Peasants’ Revolt of 1381...Barker’s portrait of England in the era of the great uprising shows how the exploitation of the majority of the population by the rich and powerful elite finally became intolerable to those who believed themselves to be oppressed, and the socioeconomic tension produced an explosion...This is a fascinating resource for anyone interested in late medieval English history. (A. C. Reeves Choice 2015-04-01)
In this excellent in-depth examination of the Peasants Revolt in England at the time of Richard II, Barker shatters the popular image of grubby serfs armed with pitchforks challenging authority. Using the many records of the time, Barker establishes the background to the revolt, distinguishing individual actors rather than seeing ‘the peasants’ as a unit... Barker details the course of the revolt from the agitators’ initial success in getting concessions from Richard II through its ultimate failure. Fascinating and informative, Barker’s authoritative analysis of this medieval crisis takes on a haunting resonance in the modern day. (Publishers Weekly 2014-08-25)
Praise for Juliet Barker's Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England: [A] thoroughly engrossing study of Henry and the battle that made him... [Barker’s] expertise greatly enriches the narrative. (William Grimes The New York Times)
Praise for Juliet Barker's Agincourt: Henry V and the Battle that Made England: [Barker’s] book is quite wonderfully vivid, clear and involving. She never forgets that a military campaign is made up of human beings. (The Economist)
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