The Pedants’ Revolt, 1381

I’ve been experimenting with module-type units in my courses this term, and we’ve been doing the 14th Century this week, including the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Students had to read Froissart’s account of the revolt, as well as a chapter from Cohn’s Lust for Liberty, on “the politics of social revolt.” And of course we watched parts of that magnificent film A Knight’s Tale, director’s cut, which has additional material addressing social relations during this time.

In the context, this popular meme of 1381 is both funny and interesting:


Funny because well, it’s simply a quirky way of imagining a revolt. Interesting, because if you think about the much – debated identity of the rebels, it reminds us not to assume that the rebels were uncooth hicks demanding that the 1% fix society. In a subtle way, it speaks to what I suspect was a very real difference between 1381 England and 1357 France, when the Jacquerie tore through the countryside. I tend to think that the English rebels had a far greater, and more revolutionary, sense of themselves than their French sibling had twenty-five years before.


[Edit: this post is an experiment with posting from my phone, both because I haven’t done it much and also because I want/need more practice in writing shorter, quicker, lighter pieces.]