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Daily History

June 13 1381 peasant army marches into London


Wat Tyler leads the Peasants Revolt

On June 13th 1381, during the Peasants’ Revolt, a large mob of English peasants led by Wat Tyler marched into London and began burning and looting the city. Several government buildings were destroyed, prisoners were released, and a judge was beheaded along with several dozen other leading citizens.

The Peasants’ Revolt had its origins in a severe manifestation of bubonic plague in the late 1340s, which killed nearly a third of the population of England. The scarcity of labour brought on by the Black Death led to higher wages and a more mobile peasantry. Parliament, however, resisted these changes to its traditional feudal system and passed laws to hold down wages while encouraging landlords to reassert their ancient manorial rights. In 1380, peasant discontent reached a breaking point when Parliament restricted voting rights through an increase of the poll tax, and the Peasants’ Revolt began.

In Kent, a county in southeast England, the rebels chose Wat Tyler as their leader, and he led his growing “army” toward London, capturing the towns of Maidstone, Rochester, and Canterbury along the way. After he was denied a meeting with King Richard II, he led the rebels into London on June 13, 1381, burning and plundering the city. The next day, the 14-year-old king met with peasant leaders at Mile End and agreed to their demands to abolish serfdom and restrictions on the marketplace. However, fighting continued elsewhere at the same time, and Tyler led a peasant force against the Tower of London, capturing the fortress and executing the archbishop of Canterbury.

On June 15, the king met Tyler at Smithfield, and Tyler presented new demands, including one calling for the abolishment of church property. During the meeting, the mayor of London, angered at Tyler’s arrogance in the presence of the king, lunged at the rebel leader with a sword, fatally wounding him. As Tyler lay dying on the ground, Richard managed to keep the peasant mob calm until the mayor returned with armed troops. Hundreds of rebels were executed and the rest dispersed. During the next few days, the Peasant Revolt was put down with severity all across England, and Richard revoked all the concessions he had made to the peasants at Mile End. For several weeks, Wat Tyler’s head was displayed on a pole in a London field.

This Day In History

About Craig Hill

Teacher and Writer. Writing has been cited in New York Times, BBC, Fox News, Aljazeera, Philippines Star, South China Morning Post, National Interest, news.com.au, Wikipedia and others.

Discussion

8 thoughts on “June 13 1381 peasant army marches into London

  1. And there was also John Ball, the Lollard priest who addressed the crowds in 1381, with the famous rhyme ‘When Adam sowed and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?’. He was hung drawn and quartered for his efforts – and his head also displayed on a pike.

    Posted by luigifun | June 13, 2012, 10:47
  2. Thanks for sharing this bit of history. All these centuries later, what have we learned?

    Posted by dianabletter | June 13, 2012, 14:45
  3. Thanks for this reminder of an earlier ‘Occupy’ movement when 99% were controlled by the 1%. Studied history, know the history, but still doomed to repeat it! Rather tragic that they only way to change this is to become one of the ‘1%’.

    Posted by M. Payne | June 13, 2012, 23:48
  4. Thanks for this. It needs be remembered, especially as England has such difficulty in remembering it’s popular uprisings and democratic impulse. The Peterloo Massacre in Manchester in the nineteenth century is a case in point as is the fact that England was the first European country to reject monarchy with the execution of the Charles I.

    Posted by Samuel Wood | June 14, 2012, 01:38
  5. Gruesome.

    Glad to have the daily history posts back!

    Posted by J. G. Burdette | June 14, 2012, 03:23
  6. Hi Craig, thanks for stopping by my blog Vacant Pages and liking yesterdays post, much appreciated. Love the site and look forward to reading more.

    Posted by vacantpages | June 14, 2012, 04:21
  7. As always, ‘Might makes right’.

    Concessions gain you time, and once you have mustered enough power to be mightier than they … off with their heads! Who was it said “Put not your trust in princes”? He got it in one. Principles don’t rule, the Big Stick always does — why do we accept this state of affairs?

    Answer: our stick isn’t big enough.

    So what do we learn from the lesson above?

    Posted by Argus | July 3, 2012, 08:05

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