1381 The Peasants Revolt

Sussex in common with Kent, Essex and Bedford had a large proportion of the population held in serfage. Serfs were obliged to provide free labor to the lord of the manor in exchange for a small land holding of their own. They had few legal rights and often had to pay the lord to allow their daughters to marry.

John Ball was a preacher from Kent who preached all property should be held in common. He, together with Wat Tyler and Jack Straw rallied the peasants into a revolt against King Richard II. Many men from the Sussex Weald joined the rebellion. 

At the rebellions peak, up to 60,000 peasants marched on London. Richard initially tried granting letters of freedom from serf-age, but this was not enough for the leaders of the rebellion. Richard then ordered all the peasants to leave London by the next morning or be declared traitors and sentenced to death. This was enough for most of the peasants who returned to their villages. 

The leaders of the revolt - Wat Tyler, Jack Straw and John Bull were executed. Richard subsequently executed the leaders of the revolt from each village.  In total, Richard II executed 1,500 of the rebels.  The letters documenting the peasants freedom from serfage were torn up.

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