(Review) England, Arise: The People, the King and the Great Revolt of 1381 by Juliet Barker

Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group, October 27, 2014.
Genre: Non-fiction, British History, British History Reading Challenge 2014, Peasant's Revolt.
Format: Hardcover.
Pages: 384.
Rating: 5 Stars for excellent.
Source: Free copy from Little, Brown Book Group in exchange for a review.

The book is available at Amazon. 

Link to read an excerpt from the book: England, Arise. 

Contact links for Juliet Barker:

Further links to read on the history of the Peasant's Revolt:
The History Learning Site
Britannia History
BBC Radio 4

King Edward III of England died June 21, 1377. His heir had been Edward the Black Prince. The Black Prince died in 1376. Edward's heir became his grandson the future Richard II. At Richard's coronation he was age ten. While Richard was a boy-king, he had a council of thirteen to "assist" him in ruling. A truce between England and France ended. A war with France required money. Taxes were a way to create money for wars. The first poll-tax began in 1377, followed by a second and third. At the third poll-tax a revolt began. Richard II was age fourteen in 1381, the year of the third poll-tax and revolt. His uncle John of Gaunt was a wealthy nobleman. His estates created a large revenue. John of Gaunt would be deeply affected by the revolt during the summer of 1381.
Juliet Barker's subject is the revolt, which had been titled during the "nineteenth-century" as the "Peasant's Revolt." Barker explains,
As with so many neat and enduring labels, including the Black Death, this was a name bestowed by nineteenth-century historians who equated the chroniclers' description of the revels as rustici, meaning rural or country people, with peasants and serfs in particular. The problem with this term is that it is no longer simply a description of agricultural labourers of subsistence farmers, but has acquired a politically charged meaning which elevates the universalities of dogma above the differences of the particular...In other words, the 'Peasant's Revolt' was an unavoidable result of the age-old class struggle.
My Thoughts:
Juliet Barker has taken the theme of a revolt because of taxes, and expounded to further reveal a history of the medieval era of England. Several historical areas of interest are explored: the Black Plague, Church wealth, literacy and education, the new middle-class, and landlords versus tenants.
England, Arise has given me a deeper view of medieval life than I expected. I had hoped to explore the Great Revolt of 1381 and understand the early part of Richard II's reign. It has been a pleasant surprise to examine the lifestyle, and attitudes and actions of the people.
John of Gaunt is not seen in a favorable light in the book. I think because I'd read the historical fiction book Katherine by Anya Seton, I had seen a romantic version of his persona.
Two important aspects of the revolt is Richard II's response and the defiant men who were in charge of the uprisings. I feel these aspects were examined and without bias.
The final chapters of the book explore Richard II and the "aftermath" (legacy) of the Great Revolt. These chapters are my favorite in the book. To look back on this period of history and see how it has affected generations of people, as well as uprisings and rebellions in other countries was very interesting. 


  1. Deeply historical books are not usually my go-to but I'm glad that you enjoyed it! That's what book blogs are for to broaden our horizons so thanks for sharing!



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