12 June

Baldrick: Well, I was wondering if I might have the afternoon off? _ Blackadder: Of course not. Who do you think you are, Wat Tyler? You can have the afternoon off when you die, not before. _ _ Blackadder II, episode three, 'Potato'

June 12, 2009 · 1 min read

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.


Morality tales

From cowardly men to wayward wives, pre-modern superstitions transmitted social norms as well as scares, writes Eleanor Janega

Playing on the dark side: An interview with Dawn Ray’d

Gerry Hart speaks to Simon Barr of Dawn Ray'd about black metal, its relationship with the far right and its radical potential

The global spectres of ‘Asian horror’

Bliss Cua Lim looks at how the female ghost subgenre illuminates efforts to globalise ‘Asian horror’


Rudolf Rocker: an anarchist ‘rabbi’ in London

David J. Lobina rediscovers a forgotten but fascinating figure in London’s radical and Jewish history

Review – Falling Down: The Conservative Party and the Decline of Tory Britain by Phil Burton-Cartledge

Sabrina Huck argues that a generational shift away from the Conservative Party can’t be taken for granted

The driver of dispossession

Tina Ngata explains the social and legal legacies of a 15th-century Christian principle that paved the way for imperial violence in, and far beyond, New Zealand

Want to try Red Pepper before you take out a subscription? Sign up to our newsletter and read Issue 231 for free.