Back to top

Literature of Richard II's Reign and the Peasants' Revolt: Introduction


1 On these issues, see most recently Paul Strohm, Hochon's Arrow (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992), pp. 33-56.

2 D. W. Robertson, Jr., Chaucer's London (New York: Wiley, 1968), p. 148.

3 R. B. Dobson, The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, 2nd ed. (London: Macmillan, 1983), pp. 365-66. The secondary literature on the Rising is extensive. For a good start, see Dobson's Bibliography, pp. 405-19.

4 Ruth Bird, The Turbulent London of Richard II (London: Longmans, 1949), p. 110. Richard also enraged Londoners by restoring the privileges of the free fishmongers (9 May 1399), with the result that the prices of fish rose (pp. 112-13).

5 This name (and the other names or pseudonyms) should be compared with the nickname for the French peasants in the rising of 1358: Jacques Bonhomme ("James Goodman" = peasant, friend, Hodge). The French peasants collectively were called the "Jacquerie." See Justice, pp. 222-24.

6 John Wrawe, leader of a rising at Bury St. Edmunds on Friday, June 14, who administered a mock trial to the prior, John of Cambridge. At Bury St. Edmunds the rebels also killed chief justice Sir John Cavendish and John Lakenheath, the monk who collected the manorial dues and fines.

7 See Wr PPS 1: 230. For another accounting of names, see Nomina ductorum communium in Walsingham's Historia Anglicana, ed. H. T. Riley, Rolls Series 28.1, 2 (London: Longman, Green, 1864): 11.

8 As printed in M. V. Clarke and V. H. Galbraith, "The Deposition of Richard II," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 14 (1930), 125-81 at 164. Clarke and Galbraith transcribe the Dieulacres Abbey Chronicle from Gray's Inn MS No. 9 on pp. 164-81. For a brief discussion of "Per Plowman" in this chronicle, see Anne Hudson, "Epilogue: The Legacy of Piers Plowman," in Companion to Piers Plowman, ed. John A. Alford (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988), p. 252. Hudson, citing Kane, mentions that a scribe includes a line in a manuscript of the A version of PP: "Preyit for pers þe plowmans soule." See also Susan Crane, "The Writing Lesson of 1381," in Chaucer's England, ed. B. Hanawalt (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), p. 211.

9 Kane, "Some Fourteenth-Century 'Political' Poems," in Medieval English Religious and Ethical Literature: Essays in Honour of G. H. Russell, ed. Gregory Kratzmann and James Simpson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), pp. 82-91; Wenzel, Preachers, Poets, and the Early English Lyric (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), pp. 197-98 (in the larger context of Type B complaint lyrics); Green, "John Ball's Letters: Literary History and Historical Literature," in Chaucer's England, ed. Hanawalt, pp. 176-200.

10 Green, citing Dobson, suggests that the Addresses are not speeches of commons but additional letters by Ball under his various pseudonyms ("John Ball's Letters," p. 182). He also documents the common phrasing between and among the letters: "Now is time" (pp. 186-87), the grinding small, mention of Piers Plowman, Hobbe the Robber, and the pseudonyms of the commons (p. 181); Ball's pseudonym, the guile motif, and the beware theme (p. 196, note 29). Also see Justice on insurgent literacy, pp. 13-66.

11 For example, Kane has argued that the theme attacks "the parasitism of what Langland called wastours, drones" ("Some Fourteenth-Century 'Political' Poems," p. 83). But Ball, according to Walsingham, explicated the proverb as an argument against traditional estates concepts.

12 John Gower, in Cronica Tripertita (about 1400), uses similar animal ciphers for his political allegory: Gloucester is the swan, Warwick the bear, and Arundel the horse. Part 1 of Gower's Cronica focuses on the political events of 1387-88; part 2, on 1397; and part 3, on 1399. See John H. Fisher, John Gower: Moral Philosopher and Friend of Chaucer (New York: New York University Press, 1964), pp. 109-11.
The Peasants' Revolt of June and July 1381 was a milestone of medieval English politics and of Richard II's young reign. Polemical chroniclers -- Thomas Walsingham, monk of St. Albans (Historia Anglicana, Chronicon Angliae); Henry Knighton, Augustinian canon of St. Mary-of-the-Meadows, Leicester (Chronicon); the Benedictine author of Anonimalle Chronicle (from St. Mary's, York); a chronicler of Westminster (Chronicon Westmonasteriense); and Sir Jean Froissart in his Chronicles -- recount the stages of the rebellion in detail; and they represent the events as dangerously revolutionary and damaging to the body politic. These chroniclers are notoriously unreliable as reporters of fact, especially as regards the alleged "peasants" of the rising; and they often present contradictory, partisan testimony concerning the events.1 Still, the major outlines of the revolt are clear. We know and can infer more about the 1381 rising than about similar incidents in France, in Italy, or in England later on. Some of the more important incidents in the revolt -- such as Richard's confrontation with the rebels at Mile End and the death of Wat Tyler -- were recorded in well-executed fifteenth-century illustrations.
The rallying-point for the rebellion was the poll tax of 1380-81, a tax that, as an anonymous poet phrased it, "has tenet [harmed] us alle." Worse, this was the third such poll tax, and it was enforced by much-hated commissions of inquiry, which investigated whether all persons were complying with the tax. The unpopular levy of 1377 was followed by the graduated tax of 1379, the latter a failure that resulted in the replacement of the Chancellor, Richard Scrope. In 1380, Parliament allowed the king, through his new Chancellor, Simon Sudbury, Archbishop of Canterbury, to assess a tax of three groats (one shilling) on every man and woman over the age of fifteen. The early 1380s were generally a time of economic hardship, when a miller "hath ygrounde smal, smal, smal" (Ball's Letter); and many elements of society, especially the artisan class, bitterly resented the regressive poll tax, which ruthless collectors extracted and then -- so it was alleged -- diverted to their own coffers: "The kyng therof had smalle."

Grievances came to a head first in Essex, where the commons attacked tax commissioners, and then in Kent. Events quickly moved beyond tax grievances to include looting, arson, and murder. The leader in Kent was Wat (or Water or Walter) Tyler, who was not a peasant; in fact, many of the commons who took part in the rising were financially comfortable but had grievances against local officials and scores to settle. The commons were urged on by three clerics: Jack Straw, about whom little is known; John Wrawe, a former vicar who led the peasants of Essex; and John Ball, a lapsed priest whom Sudbury had imprisoned three times. On 7 June Tyler and his followers took possession of Canterbury, opened Maidstone prison, and marched toward London, attracting followers along the way. The Essex peasants also converged on London; and on Thursday, 13 June, the rebels gained entrance into the city, streaming through Aldgate (where Chaucer lived in his apartments). They burned John of Gaunt's London palace, the Savoy, along with Fleet Prison and the Hospital of St. John. King Richard, who was only fourteen, rode to Mile End on Friday, 14 June, to hear the rebels' demands, which included provisions for free labor contracts (doubtless a reference to the Statute of Laborers) and the right to rent land at fourpence an acre. Richard promised them justice, with the result that many Essex commons returned home; but other peasants broke into the Tower and executed, among others, Archbishop Sudbury and Robert Hales, Royal Treasurer and Prior of the Hospital of St. John's, who provided something like a flashpoint for the mob's fury. At Smithfield on Saturday Tyler presented the king a list of six points, two of which were "That there should be no seignory except that of the King" and "That there should be no serf in England."2 These points resemble the doctrines said to have been preached by the renegade priest John Ball, who urged on the peasants with the notion that men and women were created equal, in Eden, according to the formula "When Adam dug and Eve span, / who was then a noble man?" During this conference with the king and after heated words with William Walworth, mayor of London, Tyler was killed by the king's valet.

The rising centered in London was the best-known of 1381; but similar, related revolts occurred at St. Albans (beginning 14 June), Bury St. Edmunds (14 June), Norfolk (14 June), and Cambridgeshire and Huntingdonshire (15-17 June). On 15 June the townsfolk of Cambridge rioted against the University, particularly attacking Corpus Christi College, which was under the patronage of the Dukes of Lancaster. The leader of the rebels at St. Albans was William Grindcob; at Bury, John Wrawe; at Norfolk, Geoffrey Litster, hailed as "King of the Commons." Jack Straw, Grindcob, Ball, and Wrawe were all executed. According to one account, Straw confessed before his death that the commons, if their rising had been successful, would have killed all the magnates and high churchmen3 -- a statement which coincides with what Oldcastle acknowledged as the goals of the Lollard rebellion of 1414. Bishop Henry Despenser, who led a bloody "crusade" in Flanders, captured Litster at North Walsham, and quickly confessed and then hanged him.

Richard II won widespread support among the estates in 1395 and 1396 after military successes in Ireland; but as early as 1397 his popular consensus began to unravel. The following events would contribute to Richard's deposition in 1399: his marriage to Isabella, princess of France, who was seven years old; his reluctance to resume the war with France; his elevation of certain lesser aristocracy to ministerial positions (notably Sir John Bushy, Sir Henry Green, and Sir William Bagot); his retaining of household troops bearing his badge of the white hart; the impeachments of Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick, Thomas Arundel, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, and his likely complicity in the death of Gloucester at Calais, 1397; his banishment of the Earl of Nottingham for life, and his transmutation of the sentence on Henry of Derby, Duke of Hereford, from ten years to life, confiscating much of his father's estate after Gaunt's death (3 February 1399); his attempts to force seventeen counties which had supported his enemies in 1386-88 to pay a special charge of £10,000 each to regain the plesaunce or royal favor (1398); his thinly-veiled desires to repeal checks on the crown established during the Wonderful Parliament of 1388; his increasingly lavish style of living; his growing wariness and suspiciousness together with his reliance on his household retainers to protect him when he ventured out of the royal residences; and his attempts to emulate his earlier success in Ireland with an ill-timed second expedition. Because of a quarrel between royal officers and London citizens in 1392, Richard suspended the city's liberties and replaced the mayor and sheriffs, with the result that he had lost the confidence and support of England's chief city. Seventeen of twenty-four aldermen present at Parliament in 1392 were among the welcoming committee for Henry of Lancaster.4 The last two or three years of Richard's troubled reign, as well as the early years of Lancastrian rule, occasioned a number of poems on Richard's ministers and on statecraft generally. Of these the best known are Richard the Redeless (1399-1400), a narrative poem in passus attacking Richard's inexperienced advisors; Mum and the Sothsegger (1403-06), a poem related to Richard the Redeless, urging the king to heed truth-tellers; and John Gower's Cronica Tripertita, a poem in Latin elegiac couplets condemning Richard's arrogant "young ministers." Printed in this volume are a poem attacking Richard's ministers, especially Bushy, Bagot, and Green ("Ther Is a Busche That Is Forgrowe") and another advising King Henry V on the wisdom of listening to counsel ("For Drede Ofte My Lippes I Steke").

The first poem included here, "Man Be War and Be No Fool" (Index § 3306), in two couplets, exists in a unique manuscript: Cambridge University MS Dd. 14. 2 fol. 312r. The couplet of lines 3-4 appears in St. John's Coll. Oxford MS 209 fol. 38r, but this version locates the time, purposefully perhaps, as "the xiiij yere of kyng Richarde," or 1391, rather than the "iiij yere," or 1381. This short lyric helps establish the scene of the Peasants' Revolt, the sense of oppression in the realm. The text of the present edition is based on a paper print from microfilm of the Cambridge manuscript and is checked against the editions of RHR, Sisam, and Wright.

The Letter of John Ball follows, in two versions: British Library, Royal MS 13. E. ix (Index § 1796), and another text from Stow's Chronicles of England, better known as Annales (1580; Index § 1791). A third version appears in the so-called Addresses of the Commons (see below). The Royal MS, which includes the famous letter on fol. 287r, consists of geographical and chronicle material, including the work known as Chronicon Angliae. This Chronicon forms the basis for Thomas Walsingham's Historia Anglicana, which contains a slightly different version of Ball's Letter. In his letter -- which Walsingham claims was discovered in the pocket of a man who was to be hanged -- Ball cryptically and apocalyptically encourages the commons while trying to keep order in the ranks, urging them to stand "togidre in Godes name," to permit Piers Plowman to do his work, to "chastise wel Hobbe the Robbere," and to observe one leader only rather than going their own ways. He refers to himself and his fellow conspirators in code. He is "Johon Schep"; others include "Johan Nameles," "Johan the Mullere," "Johon Cartere," and "Johan Trewman."5 A Latin poem on the death of Archbishop Sudbury (not printed in this volume) concludes with a list of nicknames for the rebels: "Jak Chep [= John Ball; Chep = schep], Tronche, Jon Wrau,6 Thom Myllere, Tyler [= Wat Tyler], Jak Strawe, / Erle of the Plo, Rak to, Deer, et Hob Carter, Rakstrawe [Jack Straw?]; / Isti ductores in plebe fuere priores" (these were the foremost leaders among the people).7 Although the allusion to Piers Plowman in the Addresses of the Commons has a suspiciously literary quality to it, especially in proximity to Hobbe the Robber, Piers seems to have enjoyed an existence independent of Langland's poem. The anonymous composer of the Dieulacres Abbey Chronicle, for example, states that the rebel leaders were "Iohannis B" (presumably Ball), Iak Straw, and "Per Plowman."8

John Ball's Letters should be compared with the political prophecies in the first section of this volume and with the Addresses of the Commons. The Letters, including those in the Addresses, combine elements from "Abuses of the Age" lyrics with proverbial sentiments and preaching material, as George Kane, Siegfried Wenzel, and Richard Green have demonstrated.9 This could mean that Ball, a sometime priest, turned naturally to complaint topoi for his epistolary material. Or perhaps the chroniclers represented his writings as containing proverbial and sententious material. Concurring evidence from several sources militates for the former; lack of reliable, firm evidence should urge caution. The text of Ball's Letter (Royal MS) is edited from a paper print of the manuscript and is checked against the editions of Thompson and Riley for the Rolls Series, against RHR's edition, and against Green's transcription in the Appendix to his article on "John Ball's Letters," p. 195. The text of Ball's Letter (Stow version) is taken from The Chronicles of England (London: R. Newberie, 1580), p. 485 (STC 23333), and is checked against the 1611 T. Adams edition of Stow's Annales (p. 470; STC 23337); Stow's A Summarie of Englyshe Chronicles (H. Binneman, 1574; STC 23324), p. 235; and RHR's edition. RHR prints from the edition of Edmund Howe (1615). In Stow's editions the Letter appears as prose.

Related documents include the Addresses of the Commons from Chronicon Henrici Knighton. Henry Knighton was an Augustinian canon of St. Mary of the Meadows, Leicester (died 1396). His Chronicon provides the most complete witness to the Great Plague of 1348-49; and Knighton also demonstrates considerable antipathy to the Lollards, perhaps because Leicester was a center of Lollard activity. His Addresses of the Commons include alleged statements by commons like those mentioned in Ball's Letter or in the Latin poem on Sudbury -- namely, Jakke Mylner (John the Miller), Jak Carter, Jakke Trewman, and John Ball (two more letters). These Addresses seem to constitute variants of John Ball's Letter dispersed among several voices, for the same themes and personalities appear here: the commons are oppressed, the nation's morals have declined; people are exhorted to work "with skile" (reason), to be careful, to adhere to the values of Piers Plowman (righteousness), and to restrain urges for vengeance and thievery ("Hobbe Robbyoure").10 These sentiments draw upon themes prominent in "Abuses of the Age" lyrics. The text of the present edition is based on Lumby's recension for the Rolls Series and is checked against R. F. Green's transcriptions in the Appendix to his article on John Ball's Letters. Green based his text on British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C. VII. fols. 174r-174v, which he compared with British Library, MS Cotton Claudius E. III, fol. 269v.

To help complete the story of the Great Rising, I print John Ball's sermon theme as recorded in Walsingham's Historia Anglicana. This theme interrogates the notion that class distinctions inhere in the nature of things or that God ordained class when he created Adam and Eve. The couplet could be said to uphold the dignity of work (digging, spinning); and it harmonizes not only with the moral-political elements of Ball's Letter and the Addresses of the Commons but also with an important fourteenth-century literary theme: gentilesse. Dante and Chaucer both distinguish between hereditary gentility ("old riches") and true gentility based on virtuous actions (wealth of the spirit). Ball's reported sermon theme is proverbial as well as moral; and its political content has been doubted.11 Yet its quasi-literary content agrees with other themes associated with Ball and the Rising.

An important witness to contemporary attitudes toward Richard and his court is On the Times, a 236-line rhymed macaronic complaint lyric in English and Latin beginning "Syng I wolde, butt, alas!" (Index § 3113). On the Times is preserved complete in three mid-fifteenth-century manuscripts: British Library, MS Harley 536, fols. 34r-35v (A-Text); British Library, MS Harley 941, fols. 21v-23v (B-Text); and Trinity College Dublin, MS 516, fols. 108r-110r (C-Text). The poem was first edited by Thomas Wright for Political Poems and Songs (1857). Wright gave the poem its title because of its attacks on contemporary mores and on fashions in clothing, and he dated the poem to 1388 on the basis of references to the retreat of "Jak" and "Jak nobil," whom he identified as Robert de Vere, Duke of Dublin, and Michael de la Pole, Earl of Suffolk. He believed that lines 109-12 refer to the flight of de Vere and the Earl of Suffolk to the continent, an allusion that Janet Coleman has accepted in her reading of On the Times. Wright printed the C-Text of On the Times; but Richard Firth Green has commented on the deficiencies of C and suggests that the B-Text would be preferable as a base-text, certainly to C but also to the A-Text as well. Green argues that the date of the poem is more likely ca. 1380, just prior to the Peasants' Revolt, and that "Jak" refers to Jack Philipot, while "John," he believes, alludes to John of Gaunt. The A-Text has been edited by Jeanne Krochalis and Edward Peters. Following Green's suggestions on preference of manuscript, this edition of the poem is based on B (MS Harley 941). B is written in long lines with the English line as the first half and the Latin as the second. The English half-lines rhyme with the next English half-line, and the Latin with the Latin, in couplets.

Next is a reflection on Straw's rebellion that begins: "Tax has tenet us alle" (Index § 3260), a macaronic lyric (English/Latin) in eight-line stanzas and in two versions: Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 369 fol. 46v (in 48 lines), and Oxford University MS Digby 196 fols. 20v -21r (in 64 lines). The Cambridge version was printed by Wr PPS 1: 224-26 and again by Dobson in The Peasants' Revolt of 1381, the latter including English translations of the Latin verses; the Oxford version was printed by RHR and by Krochalis and Peters. In the present text, I follow the Cambridge MS but, like Wr and Dobson, I supplement from the Oxford text in lines 41-60.

The penultimate poem of this section, which begins "Ther is a busche that is forgrowe" (Index § 3529), is a political allegory on Richard II's ministers, including Sir John Bushy, speaker of the Commons in 1394 and 1397; Sir Henry Green; and Sir William Bagot. This occasional lyric addresses political events of Richard's last three years as sovereign, and specifically the struggle for power surrounding the death of Thomas of Woodstock, Duke of Gloucester, while at Calais in the custody of Thomas Mowbray, Earl of Nottingham (September, 1397). Gloucester (the swan in the poem's animal allegory),12 Thomas Beauchamp, Earl of Warwick (the bearward), and Richard Fitzalan, Earl of Arundel (the steed), had made an oath to stand against the king, but Nottingham betrayed them to the king, who had them arrested. In the parliament near Westminster, Bushy impeached the three conspirators. Arundel was beheaded on Tower Hill, and Warwick confessed to treason, with the result that Richard banished him for life to the Isle of Man. At the Shrewsbury parliament (1398) Henry of Derby, Duke of Hereford (the heron), alleged that Mowbray (now Duke of Norfolk) informed him Richard was going to proceed against him as he had against Gloucester, Arundel, and Warwick; and he challenged Norfolk to deny it. Richard called for a judicial battle but suspended it when the time came (September, 1398), banishing Hereford for ten years and Norfolk for life. When the Duke of Lancaster died (3 February 1399) Richard confiscated much of the Lancastrian inheritance and extended Hereford's banishment from ten years to life, actions which precipitated Henry's combative return from France just as Richard was leaving England for a second campaign against the rebel Irish. Henry caught up with and executed Bushy and Green at Bristol; Bagot was executed in Cheshire. The poem, in fifteen tail-rhyme stanzas which dates to about 1400, exists in a unique manuscript formerly designated Deritend House, and printed by William Hamper (who at one time owned the manuscript) in Archaeologia and by Wr PPS 1: 363-66. The manuscript's current whereabouts is a mystery. Hamper transcribed the poem and sent it to the Society of Antiquaries in a letter dated "Deritend House, Birmingham, Dec. 5, 1823," and he provided the somewhat cumbersome title, "Sarcastic Verses, Written by an Adherent to the House of Lancaster, in the last year of the reign of Richard the Second, A.D. 1399." Hamper's letter to Henry Ellis, Secretary of the Society of Antiquaries, reads: "The attention of the Society of Antiquaries having been lately drawn to the circumstances connected with the latter days of King Richard the Second, I conceive that the enclosed Verses, from a coeval manuscript in my possession, may be acceptable to them; and shall therefore beg you to introduce them at your leisure." The text of this edition is based on Hamper's and is compared with Wright's version. I have given special consideration to the readings of Hamper's edition, since Wright clearly based his text on Hamper's and not on the manuscript, which he did not have the opportunity to consult.

The final poem included here begins "For drede ofte my lippes I steke" but has been entitled Treuth, Reste, and Pes by Kail (EETS) and What Profits a Kingdom (1401) by RHR (Index § 817). The poem warns the king -- Henry IV -- against paying heed to tale-tellers ("false reportours"; "tale-tellere"); and it is couched in the language and conventions of wisdom literature. According to Kail (and repeated by RHR), the poem alludes to certain statutes proclaimed in 1401. On 25 January the Commons asked the king not to listen to those who might report on their deliberations before they had come to a definite conclusion. The Commons also urged the king not to listen to French slander against certain loyal lords. There are other parts of the poem which might be occasional as well (see Kail's Introduction, pp. xi-xii). This is a refrain poem with each stanza concluding with the word "pes." It exists in a single manuscript -- Bodleian Library Oxford MS Digby 102 fols. 100r-101v -- and is 167 lines in length (twenty-one stanzas of eight lines each, missing a line, and rhyming abab bcbc), executed as prose (but with stanzas marked with ), in a crowded hand. The present text is based on an (imperfect) electrostatic copy of the manuscript folios and is checked against the editions of Kail and RHR.

Go To Literature of Richard II's Reign and the Peasants' Revolt
Select Bibliography Manuscript

Cambridge University MS Dd. 14. 2 fol. 312r (1432)

British Library, Royal MS 13. E. ix fol. 287r (c. 1400)

British Library, MS Harley 941 fols. 21v-23v

Corpus Christi College Cambridge MS 369 fol. 46v (1385-1400)

Olim Deritend House, Birmingham (c. 1400)

Bodleian Library Oxford MS Digby 102 fols. 100r-101v (1400-25)

Previous Editions

Man Be Ware and Be No Fool (Cambridge University MS)

Robbins, Rossell Hope, ed. Historical Poems of the XIVth and XVth Centuries. New York: Columbia University Press, 1959. ["On the Evil State of England (1381)," p. 54.]

Sisam, Kenneth, ed. XIVth-Century Verse and Prose. Oxford: Clarendon, 1921, 1922. [Sisam prints the St. John's College Oxford MS 209 fol. 57r. See p. 161.]

Wright, Thomas, ed. Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History. 2 vols. Rolls Series 14. London: Longman, Green, 1859, 1861. [Wright prints the St. John's College Oxford MS. See I, 278.]

The Letter of John Ball (Royal MS)

Green, Richard Firth. "John Ball's Letters: Literary History and Historical Literature." Chaucer's England: Literature in Historical Context. Ed. Barbara Hanawalt. Medieval Studies at Minnesota 4. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992. [Transcribes Ball's Letter in his Appendix, p. 195.]

RHR, p. 55.

Rickert, Edith, comp. Chaucer's World. Ed. Clair C. Olson and Martin M. Crow. New York: Columbia University Press, 1948. [Modern English translation of the letter and some of Walsingham's history of the Peasants' Revolt, pp. 360-62. Includes selected testimony from other writings on the Revolt.]

Thompson, E. M., ed. Chronicon Angliae 1328-1388. Rolls Series 64. London: Longman, Green, 1874.

Walsingham, Thomas. Thomae Walsingham, quondam monachi S. Albani, Historia Anglicana. Ed. H. T. Riley. Rolls Series 28. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, 1863-64. [Version of Ball's Letter in II, 33-34.]

The Letter of John Ball (Stow)

RHR, p. 54.

Stow, John. The Chronicles of England, from Brute unto this present yeare 1580. London: R. Newberie, 1580. [Letter appears on p. 495. STC 23333; UMI Reel S1/1010.]

------. A Summarye of the Chronicles of England. London: T. Marshe, 1570. [Ball's Letter appears on fol. 235. STC 23322; UMI Reel S1/356.]

Addresses of the Commons (Knighton)

Green, Richard Firth. "John Ball's Letters: Literary History and Historical Literature." [See above under The Letter of John Ball (Royal MS). Transcribes the Addresses, pp. 193-94.]

Lumby, J. R., ed. Chronicon Henrici Knighton. Rolls Series 92. 2 vols. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1889-95. [The Addresses appear in II, 138-40.]

John Ball's Sermon Theme (Walsingham)

Walsingham, Thomas. Thomae Walsingham, quondam monachi S. Albani, Historia Anglicana. Ed. H. T. Riley. Rolls Series 28. 2 vols. London: Longman, Green, 1863-64. [The sermon theme appears in II, 32.]

On the Times (British Library, MS Harley 941)

Wright, Thomas, ed. Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History. 2 vols. Rolls Series 14. London: Longman, Green, 1859, 1861. [Prints the C-Text in Vol. 1, pp. 270-78.]

Krochalis, Jeanne, and Edward Peters, eds. The World of Piers Plowman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975. [Prints the A-Text, pp. 87-95.]

Tax Has Tenet Us Alle (Corpus Christi College MS)

Dobson, R. B. The Peasants' Revolt of 1381. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1983. [Pp. 358-62.]

Krochalis, Jeanne, and Edward Peters, eds. The World of Piers Plowman. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1975. [Pp. 95-97 but based on the Digby MS rather than the CCC MS.]

RHR, pp. 55-57. [Prints Digby version.]

Wright, Thomas, and J. O. Halliwell, eds. Reliquiae Antiquae. 2 vols. London: Pickering, 1841, 1843. [Tax Has Tenet in II, 283-84.]

Ther Is a Busch That is Forgrowe (Deritend House MS)

Hamper, William, ed. "Sarcastic Verses, Written by an Adherent to the House of Lancaster, in the last year of the reign of Richard the Second, A.D. 1399." Archaeologia 21 (1827), 88-91.

Wright, Thomas, ed. Political Poems and Songs Relating to English History. Rolls Series 41.1. 2 vols. London: 1859, 1861. [Text of Ther is a busch in I, 363-66.]

Truthe, Reste, and Pes (Digby MS)

Kail, J., ed. Twenty-Six Political and Other Pieces. Part 1. EETS o.s. 124. London: Kegan Paul, 1904. ["Treuth, reste and pes" on pp. 9-14.]

RHR, pp. 39-44.

Historical Sources and Studies

Bird, Ruth. The Turbulent London of Richard II. London: Longmans, 1949. [Valuable history of Richard's reign from the perspective of London. Includes helpful explanations of the primary sources, a detailed chronology of events, and a map of London.]

Clarke, M. V., and V. H. Galbraith. "The Deposition of Richard II," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 14 (1930), 125-81. [Print the Chronicle of Dieulacres Abbey, 1381-1403 on pp. 164-81. Good discussion of sources and personalities involved in the Rising.]

Dobson, R. B. The Peasants' Revolt of 1381. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1983. [The best source of history, with Dobson's comments, and documents in English translation. Aids for the student include "The Chronology of the Revolt" (pp. 36-44); map: "London in 1381" on p. 152; and a full Index.]

Hilton, Rodney. Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381. London: Temple Smith, 1973. [Sets 1381 Rising in context of other historical movements.]

Hilton, R. H., and T. H. Aston, eds. The English Rising of 1381. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. [A valuable collection of essays.]

Justice, Steven. Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. [Views the rebellion as a contest over literacy and control of the written word. Places the "peasantry" within a larger context of public discourse.]

McKisack, May. The Fourteenth Century 1307-1399. Oxford: Clarendon, 1959. [Still one of the best general histories of this period. Helpful explanations of the primary sources in the Bibliography.]

Robertson, D. W., Jr. Chaucer's London. New York: Wiley, 1968. [Lively retelling of the 1381 Rising from a literary and historical perspective. See chapter 4, "A Brief Chronicle," pp. 127-78.]

Taylor, John. English Historical Literature in the Fourteenth Century. Oxford: Clarendon, 1987. [A patient and valuable exposition of the chronicles and their sources, with a good bibliography. See also chapter 12, "Political Poems and Ballads," and Appendix V, "Chronicle Accounts of the Peasants' Revolt."]

Thomson, John A. F. The Transformation of Medieval England, 1370-1529. London: Longman, 1983. [A helpful introduction to England in the later Middle Ages. The aids for students include a "Framework of Events" before major sections, a "Compendium of Information," maps, and a bibliography.]

General Studies

Baldwin, Anna P. "The Historical Context." A Companion to Piers Plowman. Ed. John A. Alford. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988. Pp. 67-86.

Bowers, John M. "Piers Plowman and the Police: Notes Toward a History of the Wycliffite Legend." Yearbook of Langland Studies 6 (1992), 1-50. [Documents the affiliations between Piers Plowman and texts identified as "Wycliffite." Bowers includes an analysis of John Ball's letters.]

Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages. Rev. ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970. [Attempts to place John Ball and the Peasants' Rising in a context of what he terms "the egalitarian millennium." See especially pp. 198-200.]

Coleman, Janet. Medieval Readers and Writers 1350-1400. New York: Columbia University Press, 1981. [Good literary and historical introduction to the later fourteenth century. See chapter 3, "The Literature of Social Unrest," pp. 58-156.]

Embree, Dan. "The King's Ignorance: A Topos for Evil Times." Medium Ævum 54 (1985), 121-26. [Advances the idea that the king's ignorance and helplessness in the face
of abuses and official corruption is a topos of complaint literature. His discussion includes The Simonie and Truthe, Reste, and Pes ("For drede ofte my lippes I steke").]

Green, Richard Firth. "Jack Philipot, John of Gaunt, and a Poem of 1380." Speculum 66 (1991), 330-41. [Argues that the contemporary allusions in On the Times accord better with events of about 1380 than of 1388.]

------. "John Ball's Letters: Literary History and Historical Literature." Chaucer's England: Literature in Historical Context. Ed. Barbara Hanawalt. Medieval Studies at Minnesota 4. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992. [Sets Ball's Letters in a convincing social and literary context of preaching material, and demonstrates the conventional nature of much of Ball's rhetoric. Transcribes Ball's Letter in his Appendix, p. 195, and the Addresses of the Commons, pp. 193-95.]

Kane, George. "Some Fourteenth-Century 'Political' Poems." Medieval English Religious and Ethical Literature: Essays in Honour of G. H. Russell. Ed. Gregory Kratzmann and James Simpson. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1986. Pp. 82-91. [Polemical argument against reading Song of the Husbandman, The Simony, or the poems and documents concerning John Ball as poems of "protest" or "dissent." These are better seen as complaint literature in the tradition of estates satire.]

Kinney, Thomas L. "The Temper of Fourteenth-Century Verse of Complaint." Annuale Mediaevale 7 (1966), 74-89. [Brief discussion of "Ther Is a Busch," p. 85.]

Maddicott, J. R. "Poems of Social Protest in Early Fourteenth-Century England." England in the Fourteenth Century: Proceedings of the 1985 Harlaxton Symposium. Ed. W. M. Ormrod. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 1986. Pp. 130-44. [Contrasts the specificity of later verses of complaint -- specifically, the literature of 1381 -- with earlier fourteenth-century complaints and satires, which Maddicott regards as closer to traditional laments and venality satire. Includes discussion of The Simonie and The Song of the Husbandman.]

Pearsall, Derek. "Interpretative Models for the Peasants' Revolt." Hermeneutics and Medieval Culture. Ed. Patrick J. Gallacher and Helen Damico. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. Pp. 63-70. [Illustrates differences between contemporary interpretations of the 1381 Rising and later understandings of it.]

Peck, Russell. A. "Social Conscience and the Poets." In Social Unrest in the Late Middle Ages. Ed. Francis X. Newman. Binghamton: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1986. Pp. 113-48. [Discusses John Ball's Letters and the blending of Piers Plowman conventions with Chaucerian in protest literature of the early fifteenth century.]

Robbins, Rossell Hope. "Dissent in Middle English Literature: The Spirit of (Thirteen) Seventy-Six." Medievalia et Humanistica, 9 (1979), 25-51.

Scattergood, V. J. Politics and Poetry in the Fifteenth Century. London: Blandford, 1971. [See chapter 10, "English Society III: Verses of Protest and Revolt." Discusses John Ball on pp. 354-56; "Ther Is a Busch" on pp. 110-12.]

Strohm, Paul. Hochon's Arrow: The Social Imagination of Fourteenth-Century Texts. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992. [Interrogates archival records, chronicles, and literary texts for their truth claims; reads the 1381 rising as an aspect of the carnivalesque. See especially Introduction: "False Fables and Historical Truth" (pp. 3-10), and chapter 2, "'A Revelle': Chronicle Evidence and the Rebel Voice" (pp. 33-56).]


Robbins, Rossell Hope. "XIII. Poems Dealing with Contemporary Conditions." A Manual of the Writings in Middle English 1050-1500. Vol. 5. Gen. ed. Albert E. Hartung. New Haven: The Connecticut Academy of Arts and Sciences, 1975. Pp. 1385-1536, 1631-1725. [Discusses Man Be Ware (§ 253) on pp. 1510-11, bibliography pp. 1709-10; The Letters of John Ball and Addresses of the Commons (§ 256) on pp. 1511-12, bibliography pp. 1710-11; John Ball's Sermon Theme (§ 255) on p. 1511, bibliography pp. 1710; Tax Has Tenet Us Alle (§ 257) on pp. 1512-13, bibliography p. 1712; There Is a Busch That Is Forgrowe (§ 87) on p. 1440, bibliography p. 1670; Truthe, Reste, and Pes (§ 58) on p. 1419, bibliography p. 1661.]