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 The plague years of 1348 - 50

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Caro
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PostSubject: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sat 04 Feb 2012, 00:58

I think I mentioned on the BBC boards that I was reading a history/fiction on the Black Death in Walsham. It got put aside for the holidays but I am back to it and have a couple of queries relating to the period. At one stage he (John Hatcher) says that as the pestilence waned the population were keen to celebrate Corpus Christi with a procession (depleted by about half the population). My book is difficult because although it is really a factual history he has wrapped in a fictional form, and there is no index or bibliography, though substantial source notes for each page saying where he has his facts or dialogue from. So from a hundred or so pages earlier I have finally found where he said , “One of the older members pointed out that the day when they had first thought of forming themselves into a society [to support each other if the plague came] was very close to the feast of Corpus Christi. This caused much excitement, for Corpus Christi was a new and exhilarating feast which was already being celebrated in many places, though not yet in Walsham.”

I wondered how these celebrations were decided on – did a new religious celebration like Corpus Christi come from a Papal edict of some form or did it arise from popular spread?

I am finding very interesting details of the make-up of the community and society. I thought feudalism (is it still called that?) was from an earlier period, but there is constant referral in this book to the way the tenants owe work and goods to the manor houses. After the plague the steward of the largest estate arrives on behalf of an absentee owner, Lady Rose de Valogny, arrives with her instructions to ensure “all the lands left vacant by the deaths of my tenants, before the weeds take over and the cottages fall down. You should use all my rights and powers to compel reluctant heirs to take up their obligations. Set some examples; punish some of them harshly to cow the others. Yet also offer some incentives. If either the land or the heirs are poor, you should reduce the entry fines you ask them to pay.” She doesn’t want the rents reduced or for him to be too generous “as that will encourage others not to pay their customary dues.” When people died their tenancy owed the lord of the manor a heriot – not a word I have ever come across before to my knowledge but meaning the best animal they owned.

Things don’t work as Lady Rose wished – making an example of a young dairymaid only meant she found work at higher pay elsewhere and there was no one to do her work on their estate. And there is land awash for people who want it, and half the heirs are dead. Their low wage offers were scoffed at and double the rate with a hot and good meal was required. And extra bushels of wheat. “Otherwise the servants would all run away to be day labourers and be far better off.” Presumably before the plague servants were better off than day labourers. (Lady Rose’s steward expected to go to an early marketplace to hire eager staff and found no one there at all needing work.)

But I was a little surprised that the system of obligations and dues was so strong at this time, when the people did own their own piece of land and animals. Even before the plague heirs sometimes didn’t turn up quickly and there were court cases about what they owed for their tardiness or just to take it over. Almost like death duties but to an individual.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Tue 07 Feb 2012, 13:55

@Caro wrote:


I wondered how these celebrations were decided on – did a new religious celebration like Corpus Christi come from a Papal edict of some form or did it arise from popular spread?



Corpus Christi came about when Juliana of Liege spent her lifetime petitioning church superiors to have it included as a feast day following some hallucinations and other generally delusional behaviour on her part. She was "lucky" in the sense that the pope shortly after her death was an ex-Liege official, Jacques Pantaleon (Urban IV), and was all for the idea since it came from one of the locals and could only help Liege to rake in money. He issued a bull in 1264 which made it a part of the Latin rite.

It's the most openly cannibalistic of christian ceremonies in that it doesn't celebrate anything about Jesus's works, teachings or character but is a devotion solely to his blood and body parts. This is probably why it quickly acquired trimmings like the performance of passion plays, carnivals etc, which is also probably why it was deemed "exciting" at the time.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Tue 07 Feb 2012, 21:10

That sounds very similar to how people get their pet theories accepted into law now. They might not always have hallucinations - more likely someone in the family hurt or killed some way.

Thanks. There was, according to my book, a lot of hope that touching body parts of saints would protect people against the plague and some of those mentioned above walked long distances, sometimes in bare feet and using other forms of abasement, in a procession to another town in an attempt (rather disappointing in that the crowds of others doing likewise meant it was hard to get close enough) to gain the benefits of drinking sacred milk or touching St Winifred's feet. (Maybe not St Winifred - no index makes checking this sort of thing more trouble than it's worth.)
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sat 18 Feb 2012, 03:42

Well, now I have finally finished my book and have a couple of enquiries connected to it. At the end in an epilogue by the author, he has a paragraph that says, "Cumulatively they [disputes and hard bargaining] were symptoms of the genesis of a universal transformation in the most important relationship of the Middle Ages, that between lords and their tenants, between land and labour. The famous Peasants' Revolt of 1381 was a milestone in this struggle, for even if it was not primarily the rising against serfdom and landlords that it was once thought to be, it was certainly a formidable demonstration of the newfound confidence and independence of the lower orders."

It's a very long time since I studied anything much to do with the Peasants' Revolt - if it wasn't against serfdom and landlords and the sort of rules attached to that, what was it about? A more generalised desire for more liberty and ability to set their own rules? The poor people uprising for better wages and conditions?

The other thing is from the very last sentence (apart from 316 notes at the end, more or less one a page) where he talks about enhanced power of peasants and labourers deriving from their scarcity and says, "But it should always be remembered that the rising living standards and improved status that the ordinary folk came to enjoy were brought at the huge cost of a terribly high and unpredictable mortality."

Did the same causes and effects happen after WWI? Did all those male deaths bring about higher wages and improved status? Or was there a different dynamic that brought about things like improved social welfare systems in the early 20th C and a rising standard of living? We seem to have a very settled time after WWII with a high standard of living. (In the West, anyway.) Was that to do with scarcity of labour? It didn't bring about more women in the workforce in the 1950s, unlike in 1350 when women become demanded for craft work as well as farm labouring.

Caro.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 21:08

@Caro wrote:
It's a very long time since I studied anything much to do with the Peasants' Revolt - if it wasn't against serfdom and landlords and the sort of rules attached to that, what was it about? A more generalised desire for more liberty and ability to set their own rules? The poor people uprising for better wages and conditions?

Caro.






If you are still interested in the origins of the 1381 Revolt I have posted an abridged edition of a little piece that I wrote on the historiography of the revolt. Allow my main interest was in the literacy of the peasantry and their view and use of text, I hope that it may answer some of the questions that you may have on the courses of the revolt.

The uprising of 1381 was the singular most important expression of popular discontent in the Middle Ages. The main issue of social contention between the devastation of the Black Death and the outbreak of the uprising was the seigniorial reaction to the shortage of labour in the post plague years and the imposition of the Statute of Labourers (1351), with the Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1380 exacerbating the social tensions already evident within the lower levels of society. The attempt to enforce the “Writ of Inquiry as to the Fraudulent Levying of the Poll Tax” of March 16, 1381, which aimed to rectify the falsification of tax returns for the Poll Tax of 1380, has been regarded by some as the spark that ignited the uprising.

The historiography of the uprising has been enlivened by differing explanations as to the what was the principle reasons for; and the effects of; the uprising. Some early historians perceived the rebellion as precipitating the end of serfdom and indirectly the feudal order of late medieval England. Whilst the uprising had failed in achieving any of the stated aims of its leaders, it was believed that landowners had been frightened into quietly granting more freedoms to the peasantry, while maintaining in parliament their right not to do so. Institutions which had controlled morality and order were considered to have lost influence and the revolt had indirectly altered the balance of power between the three estates. Allow the prevalent economic interpretation of the time was expressed by William Cunningham as, “the slow agricultural revolution which rendered their services less useful to the manorial lords, gradually set the villeins free by removing the interest their masters had in retaining a hold on them”.

There has been a multiplicity of courses attributable to the revolt. Political, militaristic, judicial and social failings of the ruling elite have all been expounded. The country had grown discontented with the conduct of the war with France; ten years of unsuccessful expeditions had lead to a corresponding increase in taxation. There had been concern about security on national borders, with fears of Scottish raids on northern England and continued raids by French and Castilian corsairs on the southern coasts. These problems, and a perceived inability on the state to maintain law and order within the country had lead to a wide spread view that the administrators of the Realm, the personnel of the King’s Council, were corrupt or incompetent, indeed prior to the revolt, in the parliament of 1376, ministers of King Edward III had been impeached for corruption and fraud. To these grievances, could be added the differing expectations of the rebels of 1381, those who encamped outside of London had specific demands that would have had far reaching consequences. Those in the ecclesiastical dominated towns such as Bury St Edmund’s and St Albans would seem more parochial, and were principally about the seigneurial relationships between townsmen and local peasants with their ecclesiastical lords.

For Charles Oman, The Great revolt of 1381; it was the social tensions of the thirty years preceding the uprising that was responsible for the violence of the summer of 1381. The exactions of the Poll Taxes were, for him no more than ‘that of the greased cartridges to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. It brought about the explosion, but was only one of its smaller causes.‘ Oman considered the true course was the frustrations felt by the peasants and artisans in their attempts to better their conditions in relation to the landowning class. The serfs wanted commutation of labour services to a moneyed rent, and an end to villeinage, and the agricultural wage earner wanted to charge as much as the market for his labour would bear.

E. B. Fryde, in his introduction to the 1969 edition of The Great revolt of 1381, emphasised the harshness of taxation and judicial enforcement of the statute of labourers in the decade before 1380. The three Poll taxes, taken in a four year period had amassed 57% of all taxation secured from 1371 to 1380. Fryde found that only a small percentage of cases brought before the Justices of the Peace dealt with labour cases up to the decade before the revolt. As far as can be ascertained from the surviving records of the Justices of the Peace, labour cases in Essex for the year 1378, and in Norfolk for the years 1372 and 1375-1379, mounted notably in the decade proceeding the uprising, and constituted more than half the total number of offences. Given the possible depth of resentment that this could course it is not surprising that in Norfolk, Suffolk and Kent none of the Justices Rolls for 1379-1381 survived the revolt.

This view that the uprising was primarily about taxation rather than social unrest has been advanced by other historians such as, M. M. Postan and R. B. Dobson. Their opinion is that the uprising gained the peasantry and artisan classes no additional benefits, and had no effect on the economic and social changes of late medieval England. The revolt has been described by Postan as “a passing episode in the social history of the late middle ages,” and by Dobson as a “historically unnecessary catastrophe”. His rational is that, the fact that the insurrection had brought to the surface a multiplicity of pre-existing local grievances should not disguise that it was opposition to taxation that instigated the revolt. Dobson also notes that historians, in a reaction against the overt propaganda of some of the contempory chroniclers of the uprising, in linking the dissident theologian John Wycliffe and rebel priest John Ball, have discounted a connection between the two ideologies, Dobson acknowledges that the audience for their respective messages must have overlapped. Wycliffe predicted the rebellion before the event, and while condemning the attack on the established order of society, claimed that the majority of the rebels aims had been justified. For Dobson, the revolt remains obstinately unique and highly resistant to any efforts in making it conform to generalised modes of economic or social developments in late medieval England, let alone Western Europe, the rising of 1381 seemed more rather than less distinctive and extraordinary episode when set against other continental revolts of the 14th century.

The view that the uprising, while important in itself, was irrelevant to the history of late medieval England has been challenged. R. Hilton Bond Men Made Free: Medieval Peasant Movements and the English Rising of 1381, used the same basic premise as Oman, in that it was the social tensions in the decades before the uprising that lay behind the explosion of popular unrest in 1381.Using subsequent scholastic studies, and emphasising the seigniorial reaction to the demographic trends of the second half of the fourteenth century, Hilton advocated that the rebels had a radical agenda, one so revolutionary that if the rebels had been successful it would have meant the reshaping of the social order. The demand for freedom from serfdom would have involved an enormous social upheaval, particularly when linked to the demand for land to be let at fourpence an acre. It would have meant the end of manorial jurisdiction, for no homage or service of any kind was to be done. It would have involved the demise of the basis of seigniorial power, and the removal of all cases about land to the common law courts. Not least it would have set the seal on a transformation of rural mentality. At a stroke the material basis for deference and the respect for hierarchy which has dogged the English rural masses for centuries would have been removed. Inherent within the demands for peasant freedom was the end of lordship, Walter Tyler, one of the leaders of the Kentish rebels had asked that lordship be enjoyed proportionately by all men. The rebels wanted a commonality of lordship under the King. The watchword for the rebels had been “with King Richard and the true commons”, they thought of the monarchy as an institution standing above individuals and classes, capable of dispensing even-handed justice.

The rebel leaders were concerned about justice and law, they rejected the law as it stood in 1381 and wanted a reversion to the law of Winchester. Probably best explained as reference to the Statute of Winchester of 1285 which contained clauses which could be interpreted as giving the right to bear arms to all adult males and the responsibility of policing the countryside, allow other explanation have been attempted. Other indications for the rejection of existing laws was the rebels attacks on lawyers. John Ball, a priest and co-leader with Tyler of the Kentish rebels wanted to kill all lawyers, justices and jurors. Tyler, wanted the king's commission to execute lawyers and all concerned in the operation of the law, so that “all things would henceforward be regulated by the decrees of the common people“.

It is difficult to quantify what lead to the outburst of political discontent in the summer of 1381. It was certainly political, and aimed at both the state and the gentry. There were few of the ruling elite who were killed, only those who had acted in an unpopular governmental or judicial rolls. Violence was centred on the destruction of property, such as the duke of Lancaster’s Savoy palace, and properties pertaining to the England’s Treasurer, Sir Robert Hales, who along with Archbishop Sudbury were victims of the anti-state policies of the rebels. The most widespread and distinctive act of rebellion was the destruction of documents; which was inflicted in an aimed and discerning manner. There had been numerable examples of discontent at village level in the decades preceding the uprising, strongly suggesting an intensification of conflict between the peasantry and the landowners. This conflict is evident country wide, but the uprising was centred in the south and east of the country, with much of the country remaining peaceful. Many of the villages that had participated in the “Great Rumour” of 1377, (when the peasantry of some forty villages attempted a sophisticated legalistic claim to ’ancient demesne’), had not been involved in the uprising. Given the diversity of manorial conditions and terms of individual tenure the uprising required a single common grievance. The social grievances of the peasantry in the decades preceding the revolt were not in themselves sufficient to provoke the revolt. Nor was taxation, in the years from 1336 to 1341 the peasantry had suffered from the weight of even greater taxation than in the 1370’s, when there had been complaints but no overt rebellion. With taxation came additional documentation, and an increased awareness of the intrusion of the state in peoples lives. Additionally the Home Counties experienced what has been described as ‘the arbitrary exercise of royal justice‘, which contrasted with the ideal of the self policing community represented in the Statute of Winchester (1285). Even the Poll Tax of 1380 only provoked rebellion in 1381 when backed by judicial commissions.

It is possible to divide the courses of revolt into three phases, firstly long term social change disrupted social stability and created new aspirations and grievances; secondly there was the growth of popular unrest as such aspirations went unrealised, this frustration lead to the emergence of new ideas that challenged the status quo, and finally the commissions which provoked the revolt. The revolt of 1381 could be considered a crisis of legitimacy for the state and the gentry, as the lower order rejected the internalised shared norms of medieval society. The large institutionalised monastic orders and the state within the state that constituted the medieval Church, along with the administrative abilities of state and local county government had become an almost irrelevant and an intrusion into the every day life of the peasantry. They were no longer perceived as defenders of Christian truths or upholders of justice; individually the men of state and church may have been respected or feared, possibly why so few men in state and judicial administration were killed; but institutionally they were seen by the peasantry as grasping and corrupt.

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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 22:08

Interesting synopsis, Octa. Do you think the 1381 revolt in England can be linked causally to any of the others which were springing up all over Europe around that time? Given the speed of communications in those days it is uncanny how so many different people seemed to form roughly the same notion of how to go about resolving much the same grievances at much the same time. Or was it more coincidental, with the only common factor the European shortage of labour after the plague, do you think?
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 22:34

A good question, I would say that they were isolated revolts, all having in some part individual aims. Any commonality between them was the social and economic convulsions following the pestilences, the lower classes pushing up as the upper class push down. That said I do seem to recall that contempory chroniclers did see some correlation, but that may have been a projected view of European society under threat.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 22:57

I'm in two minds - though I think it's right to see Wat Tyler's revolt primarily in the context of the political instability in England surrounding Richard II's immaturity and the consequent jockeying for positions of power amongst the so-called elite.

There are two things about that revolt which always stuck in my mind as salient but rarely mentioned in the conventional historical account. The first was that Tyler's demand that the aristocracy be abolished and that all power reside in the king alone was not as mad as it sounded. In fact he was simply echoing a conventional wisdom which was gaining prevalence in Europe at the time, and in fact one that Richard might well have agreed with. The one book we know Richard owned and presumably liked was Phillipe de Mezier's account of an ideal kingdom - which was organised exactly as Tyler described in his demand.

The other thing was that the three of the king's lieutenants most zealously active in crushing the revolt (and using it as justification for draconian and cruel measures enacted against the peasant class for some years to come) were Arundel, Warwick and Gloucester. Then, in 1387 it was to be exactly the same three who would stage a revolt of their own against Richard which, from Richard's point of view, was infinitely more threatening. Richard saw eighteen of his closest friends murdered by these three, and then had to deal with an army raised against him which had to be defeated in open warfare, followed then by ensuing years of resultant political turmoil which severely weakened both his own position and the entire kingdom.

It does make one wonder just who were the real "enemies of society" at the time and who, despite the subsequent propaganda (in which both Tyler and Richard fared badly), might well have been the king's closest allies in reality - at least in how they thought if not in social status.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 23:11

I'm not ignoring this. I just can't absorb long pieces on the computer so I have printed it off to read a little later. Thanks Octa.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 23:28

@nordmann wrote:
There are two things about that revolt which always stuck in my mind as salient but rarely mentioned in the conventional historical account. The first was that Tyler's demand that the aristocracy be abolished and that all power reside in the king alone was not as mad as it sounded. In fact he was simply echoing a conventional wisdom which was gaining prevalence in Europe at the time, and in fact one that Richard might well have agreed with. The one book we know Richard owned and presumably liked was Phillipe de Mezier's account of an ideal kingdom - which was organised exactly as Tyler described in his demand.

The other thing was that the three of the king's lieutenants most zealously active in crushing the revolt (and using it as justification for draconian and cruel measures enacted against the peasant class for some years to come) were Arundel, Warwick and Gloucester. Then, in 1387 it was to be exactly the same three who would stage a revolt of their own against Richard which, from Richard's point of view, was infinitely more threatening. Richard saw eighteen of his closest friends murdered by these three, and then had to deal with an army raised against him which had to be defeated in open warfare, followed then by ensuing years of resultant political turmoil which severely weakened both his own position and the entire kingdom.

It does make one wonder just who were the real "enemies of society" at the time and who, despite the subsequent propaganda (in which both Tyler and Richard fared badly), might well have been the king's closest allies in reality - at least in how they thought if not in social status.

Is it not surprising how modern and revolutionist were some of the thoughts of the time? Allow it is arguable what would have happened if the rebels had succeeded in bringing about the fall of the established order. I agree that the Kings biggest problem was the Lords Appellant's but he did manage to side step them and regain his prerogatives. I rather like Richard II, he was trying to modernise the monarchy in line with what was happening on the continent, but this of course antagonised the nobles.

May I ask, how were Arundel, Warwick and Gloucester instrumental in the suppression of the revolt? I do recall the Bishop of Norwich having a go at the rebels, but I was under the impression that the rebels got of pretty lightly, especially when considering the social revolution that they had advocated.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 23:41

FitzAlan (Arundel) and Warwick commanded Richard's troops in the final campaign against the rebels which ended in Billericay. Gloucester led the "negotiating committee" for Richard which turned into Tyler's execution squad at Smithfield. John Cavendish, one of Tyler's assassins, was Gloucester's own lieutenant and most likely acting on his orders.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Mon 12 Mar 2012, 23:53

Thanks for the quick reply, must dust of the old books on the subject. I tend to forget more than I remember these days.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Tue 13 Mar 2012, 03:08

I can’t believe this. I wrote quite a bit straight onto this site and pressed send and haven’t seen a sign of it since. It’s the first time I have had anything posted to this site not come through. This one is on Word (and then to Notepad) so will be saved. But I don’t know if I can remember what I said. (And my apologies if you should read a version of this twice – but it’s a couple of hours since I first sent it now and no sign of it.)

That was a very interesting account, thank you Octa, though historiography does show that the study of history is very dependent on people’s interpretations of it. I personally don’t think the simple issue of taxation – too much or the wrong sort – is usually (ever?) the sole cause of an uprising or riot. There are either multiple causes of which this is one, or an over-arching cause of poverty or unfair distribution or poor governance at the heart of most. (Even in individual cases of, say, domestic murder, while there may be one triggering event, this is usually the culmination of a lot of actions.) I was taught, for instance, that the Boston Tea Party was because of ‘no taxation without representation’ but I think that is a big simplification. And the Labour Party in New Zealand was formed after a miners’ dispute over a 15 minute lunch break and the employers’ wish for a 10-hour working day. That was the catalyst, but dissatisfaction over the Arbitration Laws and general working conditions meant this had a stronger impulse than the difference between quarter and half an hour for a meal. I can't think of any of these sort of disruptions that have a very simple cause.

I was interested in the statement that the rebels’ watchword was ‘with King Richard and the true commons’ and they thought of the monarchy as standing above individuals and classes. I wondered if that was the idea that the Stuart monarchs’ ideas of ruling by divine right was based on, or if perhaps it was diametrically opposite. Maori people (political Maori people – most Maori, like the rest of us, couldn’t care less about constitutional issues) have a problem with the idea of us becoming a republic as they see the Treaty of Waitangi being with the monarch, not the state. Specifically with Queen Victoria, but in her lieu her descendants.

My book mentioned several times the corruption of religious orders stemming from the days of the plague. His fictional priest was very concerned with the edict from above that said absolution etc could be performed during this time by untrained priests and even women. There is quite a bit of comment that this led to young and rather silly priests insisting on a higher pay and not performing their duties with the rigour required. And the assumption, if not the statement, that this led to corruption and payment for forgiveness etc. This is not the sort of thing the ordinary person likes to hear about (cf the public’s aversion to politicians’ rorting the system and taking all sorts of privileges). I also wonder if the fact that their god had let them down by destroying so many people (I would prefer to say ‘decimated’ which has a better flavour, but Nordmann might complain at my misuse of language) might have meant the ordinary people felt disconnected from the very highest authority as well as their own lords and masters.

Cheers, Caro.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Thu 15 Mar 2012, 13:46

‘with King Richard and the true commons’. There was a rumour, especially in East Anglia, that the movement had the king’s blessing. The rebels did not understand the true meaning of monarchy, or its strengths and weaknesses.

They recognized, of course, that the king’s will could be determined one way or the other by his advisers, so that the bad policy could be blamed by them ) on bad advice given by evil counsellors, hence the demand for the execution of those whom they considered to be traitors. There was nothing new in this, a commonplace of medieval politics. But not only was there no proposal for alternative advisers; some rebel thinking was on the lines of regional or county kings. In other words they still clung to the idea of monarchy, one-man rule, but in their later utterances they seemed to have abandoned any conception of the legitimacy of the rule of the whole kingdom by the Plantagenet family. Of course this is attributing a more reasoned and thoughtful consensus of rebel thought and policy than was most likely the case. Unfortunately we can only extrapolate the rebels motives from the textual material of their enemies
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Thu 15 Mar 2012, 14:10

@Caro wrote:
My book mentioned several times the corruption of religious orders stemming from the days of the plague. His fictional priest was very concerned with the edict from above that said absolution etc could be performed during this time by untrained priests and even women. There is quite a bit of comment that this led to young and rather silly priests insisting on a higher pay and not performing their duties with the rigour required. And the assumption, if not the statement, that this led to corruption and payment for forgiveness etc. This is not the sort of thing the ordinary person likes to hear about (cf the public’s aversion to politicians’ rorting the system and taking all sorts of privileges). I also wonder if the fact that their god had let them down by destroying so many people (I would prefer to say ‘decimated’ which has a better flavour, but Nordmann might complain at my misuse of language) might have meant the ordinary people felt disconnected from the very highest authority as well as their own lords and masters.

Cheers, Caro.



I think that the giving of absolution by lay men and women was only applicable in cases where no priest was available. It was an emergency measure becourse so many priests were dead, but I can understand why your priest would be upset. It sets at odds the special relationship that the priest held between his congregation and God. The post pestilence years saw a whole raft of new religiosity, and reversibly a rise in anticlericalism. One would assume that allow the church could provide for the spiritual welfare on a parochial level, but as an institution it was seen as flawed by many.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 10:31

Octa, have you read "Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error" by Emmanuel Leroy Ladurie? Although it concerns itself totally with a southern French village which had its own unique problems in addition to regenerating after the Black Death (it was still suffering the tail-end of the Cathar heresy witch-hunts and massacres) it is a detailed look at the mind of the ordinary person in the 14th century as feudalism drew to its inevitable end in Western Europe. Ladurie's book is unique in that it he had, in the case of Montaillou, access to extremely detailed depositions made by the villagers themselves during several inquisitions and trials, and though it is primarily an academic read and not (thankfully) "dumbed down" for reasons of maximising sales it is the best snapshot of the period that I have ever come across. The English translation is, unusually, extremely faithful to the French and yet eminently readable. Even the copious footnotes are worth immersing oneself in as they combine extraneous source material well chosen by Ladurie with some astute interpretation on his part too. By far the best aspect to the book though is that the villagers speak to you in their own words, directly and without subsequent editing, across the intervening 700 years and address everything from local jealousies and spats to notions of a perfect state and the role of religion in society.

It is difficult to fathom why people so far back in the past ended up in some particular situations that they did. This book goes a long way in demonstrating not just how they thought but also, where these motives and the resulting actions were ones which were duplicated throughout medieval Europe at that time, therefore provides insight into much more - including what Tyler was all about and the official reaction to his demands.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 20:03

Thank you Nordmann, I've been trying to recall the name of that book on and off for years. Ladurie was a member of the Annales school and a colleague of Braudel if I remember correctly and his book was recommended to me but I didn't take a note of the name.
These boards are a goldmine!
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 20:07

Thank you nordmann, I read extracts of this book years ago in another book dealing with the Cathar heresy, and have been hunting for the original for ages. Lost the Cathar book and could not remember the name quoted in the bibliography, well done you have made me a happy bunny and have ordered a copy. I owe you a large one of your choice

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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 20:22

Glad to help, people.

Octa, I should have said to make sure to order an edition with an index (not all have, mine didn't). It really helps since so many of the villagers' names are so similar. I remember I ended up drawing what turned out to be a hugely complicated family tree just to keep everyone separate in my head. Worth the effort though.
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PostSubject: Re: The plague years of 1348 - 50   Sun 18 Mar 2012, 20:38

That book sounds very interesting and I would expect to be able to follow the thoughts of individuals all right, but perhaps a bit of 'dumbing down' would help me. However I still haven't ordered the one you recommended on Richard Cromwell, Nordmann - got put off by the $100 price tag but have since realised we spend that much on meals out most fortnights. A book lasts a bit longer than a meal. I have taken a note of it, so may well buy it in the not too distant future.

Several times the book I read by John Hatcher mentioned how little reporting there had been on the plague even in places as large as London, and that most of the information of how it affected ordinary people came from the Continent. He was working from manorial records mostly and trying to flesh them out a bit. But he didn't go far into the realms of speculation or dialogue so it was rather an odd piece of 'fiction', basically using the verbatim words of the records or quotations from formal writing.

Sorry I didn't respond to your last posts, Octa, but I didn't really have anything I could add to your valuable information. A quick thank you wouldn't have gone astray though, so a belated one now.
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