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Peasants Revolt

Book Review: 'The English Rebels'

Radical history

'The English Rebels', by Charles Poulsen, (Journeyman, 1984)

This book is a commemoration of popular radical movements and a celebration of the spirit and ideals underlying those movements. It begins with the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 and plots history through the Lollards, Jack Cade, Kett's Rebellion, the Civil War, the Industrial Revolution, the Naval Mutinies of 1797, the Luddites, the Trade Unions, the Reform Bill, Chartism and the Emancipation of Women. It is intended as a popular history, redressing the balance from a consideration of the antics of Kings and Queens to an analysis of movements arising out of the discontent of ordinary people.

Revolting Peasants of 1381

In the midst of the most apparently solid and unchanging social structures, the cry for change is ever present. Six hundred years ago this month, in a feudal English society which gave legal and moral backing to the omnipotence of a mighty king and his ruling class of baronial landlords, a movement of resistance emerged to take on the established relationships of power. The existence of such a movement proves the essential contention of Marxist historical materialism: where there is a division between those who own and control the means of wealth production and distribution and those who do not there must be a class struggle.

Backwaters of History No.5 - Peasant Rebellion 1381

    " . . . that the offender be dragged to the gallows; that he be hanged by the neck and then cut down alive; that his entrails be taken out and burned while he is yet alive; that his head be cut off; that his body be divided into four parts and that his head and quarters be at the King's disposal."

That, with additional provisions, was the punishment known as being hanged, drawn and quartered which Mr. E. S. Turner informs us was supposed to have originated in the reign of King Edward I of England. (Roads to Ruin, by E. S. Turner. Pages 83-84.)

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