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In the summer of 1381 England erupted in a violent popular uprising as unexpected as it was unprecedented. Even at this critical moment, contemporaries dismissed vast swaths of people as 'the commons'. Yet the records of the revolt provide a rare opportunity to tell the stories of those once reduced to an amorphous mass. England, Arise paints a picture of medieval life that illuminates a volatile England on the verge of extraordinary social changes. Sceptical of contemporary chroniclers' accounts, Juliet Barker draws on the judicial sources of the indictments and court proceedings that followed the rebellion to offer a new perspective on the so-called Peasants' Revolt. Looking afresh at the facts, England, Arise introduces us to the loyal rebels who believed they were acting in the king's best interests, and suggests that the boy-king Richard II sympathised with their grievances. Barker uncovers how and why a diverse and unlikely group of ordinary men and women from every corner of England - 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 - united in armed rebellion against Church and State to demand a radical political agenda. Had it been implemented, this agenda would have transformed English society and anticipated the French Revolution by four hundred years. Written with pace and verve, England, Arise is an important and fascinating reassessment of the revolt itself and an engrossing, original study of life in medieval England.
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