People of 1381 project set to explore lives of peasant ancestors


23 September 2019
p7-main-story-Peasants-Revolt-pic-BL-FLICKR-32939.jpg A 15th century illustration of two groups of rebels meeting outside London during the Peasants’ Revolt of 1381
The new People of 1381 digital project is exploring the lives of peasant ancestors normally hidden from view after receiving almost £1 million in funding...

A new research project is set to produce the most comprehensive interpretation of the Peasants’ Revolt to date after being awarded almost £1 million in funding.


The People of 1381


The revolt was the most widespread popular rebellion in English history and rocked the country in the summer of 1381, and central to The People of 1381 project is the creation of a database to provide the first overview of events, places and individuals involved. Judicial and manorial documents will be combined with central, local and poll tax records and more, to reconstruct collective biographies of the people caught up in the rising.


Led by Professor Adrian Bell from Henley Business School at the University of Reading, the three-year project will shed new light on the complex economic, social and political dynamics of the rebellion, to enhance understanding of its cultural impact.


In addition to forming case studies of individual rebels and their victims, the project will research participation of social groups whose role has been little investigated, such as household servants, soldiers and women. It will use Geographic Information Systems to map the development and structure of the revolt, to identify differing levels of community protest and examine how these fitted together.


The Arts and Humanities Research Council has awarded a £971,412 grant for the project, which begins on 1 October 2019, following the launch of a new website at


Exploring the lives of those normally hidden from view

Prof Bell, research dean and chair in the History of Finance at Henley Business School, said: ‘Bringing together the records of the revolt offers a remarkable opportunity to explore the lives, aspirations and frustrations of those usually hidden from view, giving us insight into the motives and actions of the crowd rather than the elite.’

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Co-investigators for the cross-disciplinary, multi-institution project come from the universities of Southampton, Oxford and Glasgow. Community engagement will also be encouraged. A travelling exhibition will visit places closely linked to the events of 1381, while an education collaboration programme with the Historical Association will include training and materials for schools, as well as a children’s poetry competition arranged with the Poetry Society.


Prof Bell added: ‘We believe this project can help foster a modern sense of community and engagement with the past, and the exhibition and education opportunities it brings will help encourage this.’


Illustration from British Library Flickr, public domain.



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