The Peasants' Revolt: The Medieval World Turned Upside Down
The Oxford Experience is a residential summer programme providing one-week courses in a variety of subjects aimed at non-specialists. It offers a choice of seminars each week over a period of six weeks.
In the ‘Great Rising’ of 1381 ordinary medieval people produced a radical agenda for political and social change. In the face of a faltering government and systemic exploitation, peasants and craftsmen took up arms in the belief that together they could create a fairer society. The rebels called for an end to landlords’ legal powers over tenants, fair rents, and the freedom to choose between employers. This course offers a fresh appraisal of a late-medieval rising which still speaks profoundly to a modern Western audience who, in a very different world, face their own crisis of confidence in contemporary modes of governance.
Seminars meet each weekday morning, 09.15-10.45 and 11.15-12.45, with afternoons free for course-related field trips, individual study or exploring the many beautiful places in and around the city.
England after the Black Death – the social, economic and political background to the revolt. This introductory session sets out the background to England’s most famous medieval rising. We will look at documents and literary sources for insights into relations between lords and peasants and the consequences of contemporary political developments including the Hundred Years’ War with France.
The events of 1381: the outbreak and course of the revolt. In the second session we will explore in depth the events of the summer rising - reconstructing who was involved, where, and when. The discussion will draw on numerous regional case studies to show the variety of grievances, as well as outlining the events in London, which was the epicentre of the insurrection and the meeting place of the young king Richard II and the rebels.
What were the aims of the rebels? This class will look at what we know of the rebels’ intentions from generally hostile contemporary sources. How can we get at what participants thought they were going to achieve in their appeal for a peasant-run society under the king? In this class we will look at many primary sources, including chronicle accounts.
The place of the revolt in the politics of late-medieval London. The reaction of the Londoners was crucial in the course of the revolt and helped determine its outcome. In this class we will look at how the rising interacted with the complex currents of late-medieval London life. We will also look at the public buildings and spaces that acted as venues for interaction between participants, leading Londoners, and the king and royal officials.
Consequences. Our final class will consider the immediate and longer term consequences of a revolt that was brutally repressed. Its apparent failure is put alongside subsequent changes which included the reduction of taxation, decline of serfdom, and the deepening engagement of ordinary people in local political life. Comparison will be made with 15th- and 16th-century revolts.
Hilton, Rodney. Bond Men Made Free. London: Routledge, 2003.
Dunn, Alastair. The Peasants’ Revolt: England’s Failed Revolution. Stroud: The History Press Ltd, 2004.
Dunn, Juliette. England, Arise. London: Abacus, 2015.
During your course, you will stay in typical Oxford student accommodation at Christ Church in buildings which range from the 18th to the 20th century. Bedrooms are modestly-furnished, do not have air-conditioning and are arranged on a staircase of four or five floors.
The fee £1545 includes a bedroom with private bathroom facilities (shower, washbasin and toilet). Most are single but a few twins are available for couples or those who wish to share with a friend. Those couples wishing to book a twin room should contact us direct firstname.lastname@example.org, as these rooms cannot be booked online.
There are also a few standard rooms available which all have their own washbasin and shaver point but the bath and toilet facilities on each staircase are shared. To apply for one of these rooms please select the ‘Programme Fee (with single standard accommodation and meals)’ option on the application form. Early application for these rooms is essential.
Most standard rooms are single but there are a few ‘twin sets’ (two single rooms opening off a sitting room). If you wish to book a twin set, please contact us direct email@example.com, as these rooms cannot be booked online.
Please indicate your accommodation preferences (either online or on your application form) together with a note of any mobility problems.
We regret that we are unable to offer you accommodation at Christ Church prior to or following your course. Additionally, family or friends who are not enrolled in the programme cannot be accommodated in college.
Programme fee (with single en-suite accommodation and meals): £1545.00
Programme fee (with single standard accommodation and meals): £1365.00
Stephen Mileson is an Assistant Editor of the Victoria County History of Oxfordshire and editor of the journal Oxoniensia. He was formerly a lecturer in medieval history at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. He has taught for OUDCE for several years and has published widely on medieval social and landscape history.
There are no assessments for this course.
Online registration closes on Wednesday 1 May 2019 but please note that this course may be fully booked very quickly so early registration is recommended.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support