Funding of nearly £1 million awarded for innovative Peasants’ Revolt research

3 September 2019

Funding of nearly £1 million awarded for innovative Peasants’ Revolt research

An innovative new research project set to produce the most comprehensive interpretation of the Peasants’ Revolt to date has been awarded almost £1 million in funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The revolt was the most widespread popular rebellion in English history and rocked the country in the summer of 1381. Led by Professor Adrian Bell from Henley Business School, ‘The People of 1381’ will shed new light on the complex economic, social and political dynamics of the rebellion, to enhance our understanding of its cultural impact.

Central to the project is the creation of a database to provide the first overview of events, places and people 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.

In addition to forming case studies of individual rebels and their victims, the project will be a ‘history from below’, investigating 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.

Co-investigators for the cross-disciplinary, multi-institution project are Professor Anne Curry from University of Southampton, Dr Helen Lacey from University of Oxford and Professor Andrew Prescott from University of Glasgow, with Dr Herbert Eiden (Henley) and Dr Helen Killick (Oxford) as post-doctoral researchers. Big data techniques will be facilitated by a team from GeoData at the University of Southampton.

Community engagement with the project will also be encouraged via two key pathways. A travelling exhibition will visit locations closely linked to the events of 1381, while an education collaboration programme with the Historical Association will include training and materials to be used in schools, as well as a children’s poetry competition arranged with the Poetry Society.

Professor Adrian 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. 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.”

The Arts and Humanities Research Council awarded a grant valued at £971,412 for the three-year project which will begin in October 2019 with the launch of a new website.

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