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Thursday 1 August 2002, 9.02 am - 9.30 am.
Melvyn Bragg follows his long historical exploration of the Routes of English with Voices of the Powerless, in which he explores the lives of the ordinary working men and women of Britain at six critical moments across the last 1,000 years.

The Peasants' Revolt began in the Essex village of Fobbing in May 1381. It started with the arrival of a royal tax commissioner, John Bampton, enquiring into evasion of the new poll-tax. As a JP and former sheriff of Essex, Bampton was typical of the local notables against whom the risings were directed. Supported by men from nearby villages the rebellion had begun.
Click here to read some of the original sources used in the programme

Painting representing the death of Wat Tyler. Image courtesey of britannia website.
The revolt quickly spread through the county and then into Kent. On June 7th Wat Tyler joined the uprising in Maidstone, and assumed leadership of the Kentish rebels. In Canterbury the authorities offered no resistance and the rebels entered the cathedral, where they told the terrified monks that they would need to elect a new head as Archbishop Sudbury would soon be executed.

The rebels marched on London. With the Kentish group was John Ball, a radical priest who had been agitating against the abuses of the clergy for 20 years.

By the 12th June the Kentish men had arrived at Blackheath, where, according to Thomas Walsingham, John Ball gave his famous sermon. There was an urgent need for rebel success and access to London as many of the men has arrived without provisions. They entered London on the 13th June.

The Savoy Hotel is on the site of John of Gaunt's Savoy Palace that was destroyed by the rebels.
On entering London, the rebels destroyed hated buildings such as The Savoy palace, home of John of Gaunt, and the legal offices of the New Temple. As a result, Richard ll agreed to meet the rebels at Mile End the following day. Once there, he made some tactical concessions and granted collective charters of pardon and freedom from serfdom to the men of Essex and Hertforshire - charters revoked on the collapse of the revolt a fortnight later.

It is worth noting that the boy King was generally seen by the rebels as an innocent. Others were blamed for the ills of the people, such as the King's uncle John of Gaunt.

The Priory of St Bartholomew the Great, in Smithfield, is closely linked to the outcome of the rebellion
Keeping control of the rebels was never going to be easy and by the 14th June and 15th June the rebellion appeared to be out of control. A large group of Flemish textile workers were murdered and mobs of drunken men embarked on widespread murder and destruction.

On the 15th, the final meeting between Tyler and Richard occurred at Smithfield. Troops loyal to the King were concealed nearby and following the fatal stabbing of Tyler, probably by London's Mayor Walworth, the troops appeared and surrounded the rebels. This was the end of the revolt in London, although further risings continued throughout the South East.

Dr Alastair Dunn Lecturer in British Medieval History, University of St Andrews. He has a new book on the Revolt out now called The Great Rising of 1381 published by Tempus Publishing.

Professor Christopher Dyer, professor of Regional and Local History at Leicester University
Listen Live
Audio Help
l - Castles and Cruelty - extracts on programme page.
2 - The Peasants' Revolt - extracts on programme page.
-3 - The Reformation - extracts on programme page
4 - The Plantation of Ulster - extracts on programme page
5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester - - extracts on programme page
Listen to Melvyn Bragg talk about Voices of the Powerless
Listen to Simon Elmes, executive producer, give an unigue insight into the programme.
Listen to the signature music
Go to - Homepage.
Go to Prog l - Castles and Cruelty
Go to Prog 1 - Biography of Orderic Vitalis
Go to Prog 2 - The Peasants' Revolt
Go to Prog 3 - The Reformation
Go to Prog 3 - The Reformation - Key Events
Go to Prog 4 - The Plantation of Ireland in the Counties of Armagh and Tyrone.
Go to Prog 5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester
Read The Sources
Go to Prog 1 - Castles and Cruelty
Go to Prog 2 - The Peasants' Revolt
Go to Prog 3 - the Reformation
Go to Prog 4 - the Plantation of Ulster
Go to Prog 5 - The English Civil War and the Siege of Chester

In Our Time
Thursday 9.00-9.45am, rpt 9.30-10.00pm. Melvyn Bragg explores the history of ideas. Listen again online or download the latest programme as an mp3 file.
This Sceptred Isle
This Sceptred Isle - Richard ll, Wat Tyler and the Peasants' Revolt
BBC History Timeline - Peasants' Revolt.
BBC History - Black Death: Political and Social Changes

Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg presents In Our Time for BBC Radio 4, a series where he and his guests discuss the "Big Ideas" of cultural or scientific significance.

He also presented The Routes of English, his millennial series celebrating 1,000 years of the English language.

Melvyn Bragg was born in 1939 in Wigton, Cumbria - where many of his books are set. He won a scholarship to Oxford to read history, and in 1961 he gained a coveted traineeship with the BBC.

He has presented a number of television series including: Read All about It, Two Thousand Years, and Who's Afraid of the Ten Commandments? and createdThe South Bank Show.

Melvyn presented Start the Week between 1988 and 1998. In his 1998 series On Giant's Shoulders he interviewed scientists about their eminent predecessors.

As well as presenting for Radio 4, he is Controller of Arts for London Weekend Television. In 1998 he was made a life peer. He's written 17 novels, the latest of which, The Soldier's Return, won the WH Smith Literary Award.

Melvyn Bragg was made a Life Peer in 1998 and he took the title of Baron Bragg of Wigton in the County of Cumbria.

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