The Great Revolt of 1381

Classic Pamphlet

E. B. Fryde, last updated: 16th September 2009

The Peasants' Revolt

The Great Revolt of 1381 began in South-West Essex sometime between late May and 2 June: contemporary narratives and record sources differ irreconcilably about the dates. It all started with the arrival of a royal tax commissioner, John Bampton, at Brentwood inBarnstable Hundred. He came to inquire into the evasion of an exceptionally unpopular poll-tax granted by parliament in December, 1380; the third of such taxes since 1377 and the heaviest. Bampton was one of many inquiries, as evasion was widespread throughout the country, but the people of Essex were among the worst offenders. Bampton was justice of the peace and a former sheriff of Essex, and had represented his county at least six times in parliament. He was typical of the local notables against whom the risings of 1381 were particularly directed. He was subsequently listed among the traitors whose death was demanded by the rebels on 12 June, and he died some days later, probably murdered.

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