History KS4 / GCSE: The Peasants' Revolt

How an unpopular new tax led to the greatest uprising in the history of Medieval England, the Peasants' Revolt of 1308, and how young Richard II defused it.

Professor Robert Bartlett tells the story of how thousands of armed peasants stormed London in protest against the king’s poll tax, attacking property and people in power. Contemporary images and records are used to illustrate the narrative and deepen understanding.

We hear the rioter’s demands for freedom and equality for all Englishmen.

We see the Tower of London, where the 14-year-old Richard II took refuge, and see St John’s Chapel where the rioters' attacked and beheaded the Archbishop of Canterbury Simon Sudbury and the king’s treasurer.

We hear how the king’s attempt to make peace with the rebels at Smithfield nearly failed because of the murder of the rebel leader Watt Tyler.

We hear how the king pacified the rebels with promises he later broke, allowing Plantagenet power to continue unchecked.

This clip is taken from the original BBC Two series, The Plantagenets.

Teacher Notes

You could use this clip to stimulate a performance roleplay of the revolt, with different groups of pupils selecting different aspects of the revolt.

Pupils could then perform to the wider group before peer assessing each other's performance.

After viewing the clip, pupils could assess the significance of this threat to Plantagenet power alongside other threats.

These should include Magna Carta, Simon De Montforte, and the War of the Roses, before reaching a balanced judgement as to which was the biggest threat to their power and why.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching history at KS4 / GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4, National 5 and Higher in Scotland.

More from The Plantagenets

The rise of the Plantagenets
Magna Carta
The birth of parliament
Edward I, the Welsh and the Scots
The fall of the Plantagenets