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Summary

The dramatic and shocking events of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381 are to be the backdrop to Juliet Barker's latest book: a snapshot of what everyday life was like for ordinary people living in the middle ages. The same highly successful techniques she deployed in Agincourt and Conquest will this time be brought to bear on civilian society, from the humblest serf forced to provide slave-labour for his master in the fields, to the prosperous country goodwife brewing, cooking, and spinning her distaff and the ambitious burgess expanding his business and his mental horizons in the town.

The book will explore how and why such a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England united in armed rebellion against church and state to demand a radical political agenda which, had it been implemented, would have fundamentally transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by 400 years. The book will not only provide an important reassessment of the revolt itself but will also be an illuminating and original study of English medieval life at the time.

©2014 Juliet Barker (P)2014 Hachette Audio UK

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Now I know I knew nothing before.

What did you like most about England, Arise?

Peasants Revolt was about many things and it was fought by many people but it was not fought by or for peasants. Amazing how myths are created and how they have their own lives. Jack Cade, John Bull, Watt Tyler - names we all know and yet we actually know nothing about their actions. Or lack of it as it turns out.

What did you like best about this story?

Debunking myths, sieving through ghost stories and taking people out of the picture they were firmly stuck in.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. And I did. Save for a loo, food and sleep. Scratch that, I listened in the bathroom and while eating.

Any additional comments?

It's amazing that this book can be a scholarly work and a really entertaining political thriller at the same time. You can make notes or just enjoy listening. Rare feat indeed.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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  • Jim
  • London
  • 06-12-14

Much more than a history of the Peasant's Revolt

Juliet Barker paints a beautifully detailed portrait of life in medieval England as the aftermath of the Black Death lead to what we now call the Peasant's Revolt. With a radically reduced population, the great landowners amongst the nobles and religious orders found that everyone from peasants to prosperous local gentry wanted higher payment for their work, more freedom to own land and work it and a greater say in the running of the country.

Meanwhile, the King wanted to raise taxes for this failing war in France. The solution they reached for was a disasterous combination of massively increasing taxes while screwing down wages the "Statute of Labourers" which limited what could be paid to every sort of working person. Barker has done a Herculean amount of research to bring this lot to life and she does it brilliantly. One example is her story of the futility of the statute of labourers as illustrated by the Burgesses of Gloucester who wanted to erect some stocks in the town square to punish anyone who flouted the wage limits in the statute. The problem they faced was that no carpenter would do the job for the legal rate. So in the end they broke the statute, paid him his asking price and got their stocks. This is just one of a range of stories which bring the dispute to life and made me surprisingly angry on the part of the rebels.

In telling the story of the revolt through the experiences of real people Barker also paints a highly convincing picture of what life was like at every level of society so this works a little like a deeper, more rigorous version of "The Time Travellers Guide to Medieval England". The production itself is also excellent. Can't recommend this highly enough to history fans.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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A new history of the revolt, well told

This book overturns much of what I thought I knew about the "peasants' revolt", and provides enough evidence to make it credible. Barker avoids sensationalising, and doesn't go beyond what the evidence permits in fleshing out the protagonists, but this is very much living history. The narration was pleasant and authoritative, with a proper degree of urgency.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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brilliant!

great from start to finish. didn't want it to end. many thanks for bringing history alive!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Great book, poor Narration

a wonderfully written account of the Peasants Revolt spoiled by the Narrator. She sounds like she's just reading it for the first time, no heart or feeling.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful