The Great Revolt

By Paul Dowswell (Bloomsbury Education)

The Great Revolt By Paul Dowswell

Mary's review
The novel ‘The Great Revolt’ follows the lives of Matilda Rolfe and Guy De Clare, two teenagers facing the trials and tribulations of life during the middle ages (1272-1485). The book shows Matilda, a peasant girl who with her father works for the lord of the manor at the time of the revolt, villagers were not allowed to leave the manor without his permission. The lord of the manor allowed the villagers to farm the land in exchange they had to return with crops and animals. A lord usually owned several manors and visited each in turn taking his family, possessions, and servants with him, when he was away a bailiff was left in charge.

At the beginning of the book, Matilda references themes such as the class system, the 100-year war with France, and the black death. For example “ we need to talk to Laybourne about finding somewhere else to live” this statement links to the fact that if you lived in the manor you had to go to the lord about many normal things such as farming the land, housing, and taxes.

Secondly, we meet Guy De Clare, a scribe in the royal court of King Richard II. Guys family are members of the higher class and his father is a knight in service to the Earl of Northumbria, his view on the rebellion is one of a conflicted sense as he says in this quote, “as a boy he used to play with the children of peasants” and in the quotation “he knew how different his life was from theirs, and how little they had in this world”, in these quotations he is describing the similarities he has with the poor children, while the class system just wants to create a bigger divide between them.

In the next part of the novel, the rate of desire to revolt is increasing rapidly with Wat Tyler as their figurehead and John Ball, a preacher who as a religious speaker was arrested and then freed from gaol (jail). In my opinion, this section of the novel where Matilda and her father along with the other revolters marched towards London when at the same time king Richard II along with Guy De Clare travel to the Tower of London demonstrates and it is upon the true themes and facts of the book, for example, the class system, unjust taxing and the problems of the patriarchal society.

In conclusion, the peasant’s revolt of 1381 was an event in British history that went from peaceful protest to treachery, mayhem and violence wherein which Wat Tyler was eventually killed by the Lord Mayor of London along with many lords leading up to the protest. Another reason the event was one of organised disaster rather than reform was that once the peasants returned to the villages their leaders were hanged or imprisoned. In my opinion, the revolt bought change such as an end to the poll tax and a rise in wages over time, however, the loss of life and split in national interest overshadowed the positive impact.

Aansah's review
I really enjoyed reading this book. It gave me a lot of information about the Peasants Revolt, and I really liked the different perspectives given throughout the book. I liked the action and how it helped create, first, a sense of purpose, then a sense of almost chaos.

I picked this book because of the time it was set in. I did a bit about the Peasants Revolt in one of my History classes, and I found it interesting that the people were so fed up that they could actually create an uprising. So, it appealed to me in this way, since I wanted to know a bit more about it.

The plot was serious, but also exciting and thought provoking. It made me think about what I would do if I was put into a certain character’s situation.

I learned a lot from this book. How tax collectors would take taxes, how peasants were treated, what the peasants believed in, and also how the King and his advisors reacted to it. My favourite character is probably Tilda. She has a strong personality, and she strongly believes in what she thinks is right. She also loves her family and friends, and she is also able to persuade her dad to join the rebellion. She protects Catherine, even though Catherine is a Flemish and would be killed, and it could also lead to her death.
My favourite part is probably when Tilda finds Catherine. It shows that Tilda is a good person, and can risk anything to help people who are victims to the revolt.

Overall, I really liked this book, and I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to know more about the Peasants Revolt, and those who like a strong female protagonist.

Jessica's review
The book was good but I found it a little bit young and not as exciting as I would have liked. The history behind it is very interesting though because the author wrote it in the king’s perspective and one of the peasant’s perspective, the difference was quite intriguing. One other thing I liked was that it described the scene of what it would have been like. The only complaint was that it was a little bit young and was not very exciting. It was a good book but not the most amazing book. 

3 out of 5 stars.

Jake's review
The Great Revolt is a book by Paul Dowswell, and I really enjoyed it. The book is about 2 peasants who get forced to join the revolt. I really liked this book because it had los of gore that wasn't too gross but it also had a very personal view and shows the personal side to the revolt instead of the collective side. I also like the fact that the book is historically accurate and tells the story of the peasant’s revolt from both sides.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and I am currently looking for more by this author. If you are interested in history and especially the gory side, this is the book for you.

I would rate it 9.5/10.

Harriet's review
The Great Revolt is a great book! I would recommend this book as it is a really good read, it is now my favourite book!

Matilda was my favourite character she was so brave and strong. I want to be like Matilda, I liked how despite being told she couldn't do things she kept going and it helped that she had such a good support from her family. I did not like Lord Laybourne, he was unfair and cruel! 

I learnt how fragile the world really was over 600 years ago, it was a hard time a lot of people didn't have much and some people had loads. I don't think I would have wanted to be living in that time as it was dangerous, there doesn't seem to be many laws or rules.

The book was exciting, and it got more interesting as it went on. I thought the detail was really good it set the scene well, I felt like I was on the journey with Tilda and with Guy.

From reading the great revolt I learnt what pandemonium is. The only thing I didn't like about the book was the cover I did not think it represented the book properly in my opinion. 

Phoebe's review
The Great Revolt is an interesting, easy to read piece, it intrigued me however this was only after the first few chapters as not much happened. At around chapter 7 the pace picked up and didn’t really slow down which is important for me as a reader who can get bored very easily.

One of my favourite things about this book is that it is written from two different perspectives (Tilda Rolfe and Guy de Clare) which shows the two opposite sides of the Revolt, showing how even though it was the same event, how it had very different connotations for different people and class.

I liked the strong messages of feminism in this text, and how Tilda wants to read the Bible for herself to know that what the preachers are saying is true and not just being made up to keep the serfs in their place. Telling us that we shouldn’t take anything at face value and to not always trust the words of others. 

Whilst reading I couldn’t help but draw parallels between then and today’s situation all around the world. To do with the Black Lives Matter movement and Muslims and Jews talking about their experiences of oppression. 

One thing I think would have made the book better would have been if some of the side characters had been developed more and if their personalities had been fleshed out. For instance, Catherine could have been very interesting and we, as readers, could have cared more for her if we had spent more time with her however I think this is due to the fast pace of the book which isn’t a terrible thing. 

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and I learned a lot reading it. I would definitely recommend it to someone who enjoys historical fiction like I do.

Chhavi's review
The Great Revolt is set during the English 1381 Peasants’ Revolt of 1381, in large part caused by King Richard II forcing a new, unfair, tax on people. It is set in the village of Aylesford and follows two serfs (peasants wo are tied to land), Tilda and her ploughman father, who are already struggling to make ends meet.

First impressions: I was interested in reading this straightaway as the front cover was of the book looked eye-catching and the blurb was unique. I like how Dowswell shines a light on periods of history many people do not know very much and made me want to find out more about it! I knew very little about the Peasants’ Revolution of 1381 before reading, though I have studied medieval history, but I have now read much more about it and found it fascinating.

What I liked: The focus on a specific period of history, really bringing it to life in a way that is sure to interest readers both young and old, the historical facts being accurate to avoid confusion, the use of some fantastic vocabulary. I was also able to identify themes I had covered in class, for example the Feudal System in England and how those at the bottom had very little rights.

Even better if: At times there is rather a lot of telling you how Tilda is feeling rather than showing you through her actions – it would have been nice to have her actions explored further. 

Umar's review
I enjoyed this book and I thought both of the main characters were well-developed. I liked hearing the two different perspectives. I loved learning about a new historical period that I learnt in my History lessons before reading this book. I found Tilda one of the most interesting characters because her view of the period actually pictures me being there . The character I think was most attractive is Lord Laybourne because he sounds as greedy as a pig and his attitude is way off the scale! This book is fantastic because I have actually learned new things such as wat Tyler was the leader of the peasants and that life as a peasant was atrocious! Glad I wasn’t there. The History of this time was really interesting because of all the detail and action it was making me feel pulled in to read the book. The plot was thought-provoking and serious with all the suspense wanting you to keep reading and it inspired me to look more into History books and study this part of time. I think that young teenagers, curious about History will love it.

Luke's review
The Great Revolt is set in England in 1381.The novel is about the story of Tilda, a peasant, and Guy, a scribe to King Richard II. Richard II’s council make a tax which makes the peasants revolt. Tilda and her father Thomas were already struggling before the taxes and join with the rest of the peasants from all over the country to rebel. 

I enjoyed reading this book as it taught me new things about something I never heard of before (the peasant’s revolt) and it was interesting as the peasants fought for their freedom and rights and things we have now.  

The book kept me interested and I wanted to know what would happen next, I would recommend this to other students as it is a great way to see the revolt from a peasant's perspective. 

Jennie's review
I had learned about the Peasant’s Revolt in school, but this book really helped me to understand how hard it must have been to be a villein in the Medieval Period. They were very poor, hungry and cold. They were very desperate which explains why they would take part in the uprising, even though it must have been really scary. I found it a bit shocking that the girl, Tilda, was scared of being assaulted by men and this made me feel uncomfortable. I liked that you both understood the experiences of peasants and saw conversations between the King and his advisors. I would recommend this book to other people who wanted to understand more about what it was like to live as a poor person in this period of history, and to understand the reasons for the Peasants’ Revolt. It would also help people to understand what happened in the uprising.

This would be a great recommendation for any reader interested in history and would be a brilliant starting point for anyone studying the period of history in question, The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. I liked how the facts were interwoven skilfully with the story resulting in subliminal learning – I can definitely tell you a lot more about The Peasants’ Revolt now than I could before reading and it has made me want to find out more!

Gagana's review
This book is set in the medieval times (1381) and is about a girl called Tilda who is dragged into this revolt against the king for unfair rules. Tilda the main protagonist expresses that she wants to be able to read and write but shortly is swept away from the excitement of marching into London.

The main aspects of this book which I like is that it puts into the life of a person in the middle ages it also shows the difficulties people had in those times. It also shows how much people would do to get freedom. I also like how Tilda meets new people and has new experiences while on the journey to the revolt.

Overall, I think this book is a great book that gives an insight on medieval life and is also an adventure at same time. The book is very interesting and has many experiences that to Tilda seem luxury but to us it is a normality. If I had to rate this book out of 5 stars I would rate this book a 4.4/5.

Joley's review
The great revolt (By Paul Dowswell) is a story about a 14-year-old girl called Matilda Rolfe and is set in the late 14th century. Tilda is a peasant who lives with her father Thomas, they start to hear rumours of rebellion and armies all rioting against the tax collectors. Initially excited and thrilled, Tilda unwillingly joins the rebellion and travels with the march to London. However, a once peaceful uprising evolves into something violent and wicked. For Tilda and her father fighting means freedom…. But is freedom worth their lives? 

I enjoyed the plot of ‘THE GREAT REVOLT’. It always had something more to give and little details that hinted towards something greater in the story. It was based in the late 14th century (1381 to be exact), it tells how life was hard for peasants in the countryside and especially hard for villeins whose lives were under control by their Lords. It almost reeled me in how factful and eventful the book was, however, this wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The book was exiting rather than boring and you unnoticedly learn about monarchs, jobs and even how religion-based England was.

Nonetheless I did have some small problems nearing the end of the book. It seemed it didn’t really have an ending it deserved. It abruptly stopped. It left off at a short note and could’ve had a better ending, however this can't be a real fault since the book is mostly historical based. 

I would recommend the book to anyone who likes historical books as well as an exciting story to read, as well as someone who loves a female protagonist.

Arjun's review
First of all I thought the book was a great read. I thought this because the book was well written, had a great plot and also gave you an impression of what life was like for Saxon peasants. Out of all the characters, I thought Tilda and Thomas were the most interesting because Tilda was eager to explore and join the revolt while Thomas her father was trying to keep her out of trouble. The characters I didn’t like were Simon of Sudbury and John of Gaunt because they were the reason why the peasants’ revolt started as they overtaxed people. I thought the plot was exciting because a lot of action and dram happened during the book. Another reason I enjoyed the book is because it was from two different people’s perspectives as Tilda and Guy de Clare were both telling the reader their thoughts and opinions. Overall, I though this book was fantastic and would recommend it to other students.

Sophie's review
The Great Revolt is a book set in 1381. It follows the story of Tilda, and Guy De Clare during the uprising of a peasant's revolt, and King Richard the second's response to it. Tilda is a country girl, and Guy De Clare is Richard's scribe. They are the same age- 13/14.

I did not know a great deal about this time-period before reading the book- my knowledge was mainly that it was a time of poverty, and great inequality. Whilst I was somewhat correct, I learnt lots more about the time-period and was educated in the way of country life, and the development of the cities. Tilda lived in extreme poverty, and I learned of its reality; she lived in a mud hut, whose roof leaked, and was not insulated properly, and the winters were so harsh on her that they killed two dogs. At this I sympathised with her position and hoped that it would improve; it sounded torturous. She also experienced lots of abuse as she was a girl. Whilst I was not surprised at this, it did make me realise how deep-rooted the issue of sexism and lack of respect for women has gone back. Another issue shown was ignorance concerning immigrants; this was particularly interesting to me, as we still have bigotry and arrogance in the U.K when it comes to asylum seekers, etc.

The trauma the Flemish girl Catherine endures is repulsive but shows the reader how rough life could be back then and makes them think of how society views immigrants currently.

Overall I found the time period interesting and described well enough that I could form a vivid picture of Tilda and Guy De Clare's surroundings. 

Contrasting to the young main characters, the themes presented in the book are very heavy, and often start a conversation in the reader's head. For example, Tilda talks about sexual assault, and the murder of the Flemish; both very in-depth issues, yet her rhetoric and the vocabulary of the book do not give this justice. In my opinion, whilst it is great that a younger audience can think about socially relevant themes, the way the book is written slightly belittles them. It may just be that as an older reader, who knows more vocab, the wording seems simple, but to me, there was lots of lost potential in the plot. I found the storyline to be well put together, and diverse enough in the two-point of views that I was engaged in the plot, but unfortunately some of this excitement was lost as more cliches were used (e.g.- lighting and thunder for pathetic fallacy). To counteract this, the use of a higher reading age could really enhance the emotions and characters in the book, whilst keeping the main characters youthfulness. 

I enjoyed the main characters; Tilda was a well-rounded girl, that had strong opinions to bounce off; Guy De Clare presented a refreshing and contrasting viewpoint throughout the book. Catherine was also an interesting character that added a nice element of social progressiveness in. I was most surprised by Richard's character, his bloodthirsty reign at the end being a complete plot twist. This I found very fun to read and did not anticipate it. The only addition I could wish for, was the meeting of Guy De Clare and Tilda, as their romance is hinted at but not started, and I was looking forward to the point at which they met. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the characters were written.

I would recommend this book to a year 7-9 student that would like to know more about the 1300s, or about general social issues. It presents an easy introduction to thinking more about issues like distribution of wealth, and how a country should be led, whilst using simple enough terms to describe them. I did enjoy this book, but it would not be my first choice to re-read.

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