Today in 1381, rebels from Kent arrived at Blackheath on the outskirts of London and Essex rebels led by Wat Tyler camped at Mile End. The Peasants’ Revolt or Great Rising of 1381 had begun; soon they would be joined in London by peasants from all over the sough of England, while similar rebellions were taking place all over England.
It was some 35 years after the Black Death had left a shortage of people to work the land but the government was determined to counter the peasants’ demands for higher wages and better working conditions. It also needed to raise money to finance its Hundred Years War with France and imposed a punitive poll tax on everyone.
The catalyst for Wat Tyler’s rebellion was when a tax collector seeking to determine if Tyler’s daughter was of taxable age stripped her naked and sexually assaulted her. Tyler killed him. John Ball and Jack Straw, two secular priests, also joined the rebellion as did an estimated 50,000 peasants who converged on London. Later on the night of 12 June, Londoners sympathetic to their cause opened the gates of the city.