Writing and Rebellion: England in 1381
In this compelling account of the "peasants' revolt" of 1381, in which rebels burned hundreds of official archives and attacked other symbols of authority, Steven Justice demonstrates that the rebellion was not an uncontrolled, inarticulate explosion of peasant resentment but an informed and tactical claim to literacy and rule.
Focusing on six brief, enigmatic texts written by the rebels themselves, Justice places the English peasantry within a public discourse from which historians, both medieval and modern, have thus far excluded them. He recreates the imaginative world of medieval villagers—how they worked and governed themselves, how they used official communications in unofficial ways, and how they produced a disciplined insurgent ideology.
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Had to review when I saw that someone had given Justice's work "one star." Like it or not, Justice explores a complex yet little know (outside of academic circles) that was foundational to late, medieval England. Importantly, he does so by revealing the historiography of the chroniclers of the Rebellion while also eliding the textual and linguistic tensions.