Peasant’s Revolt: If life for many medieval peasants improved after the Black Death why did they risk joining the Peasants revolt in 1381?

This is a thinking skills activity, a variant of a history mystery, in which pupils construct their own explanation of why individuals might have joined the rebel cause.  Pupils will need to have studied the Black Death and have an understanding of some of the economic consequences and a little about village life in the Middle Ages.  I am grateful to Ros Haydon when she was at Noadswood School, near Southampton, for some of the ideas contained in the lesson.

Learning objectives

  • pupils grasp the range of possible reasons for the revolt
  • they group, prioritize and then defend their choice of the most important reasons
  • they understand that historians have to generalise and individuals’ motivation may often be quite different

Step 1

Begin by showing PowerPoint slide 2 image of peasants going on an organised rabbit hunt. Don’t be alarmed if you are greeted by a blank screen. The image is slowly revealed on your second click.  Ask the pupils to consider:
what the peasants are doing;
where might they be hunting rabbits?
what might this tell us about the relationship with their Lord?
how do they appear (well-fed, well-dressed?).
This picture comes from 1350 and clearly shows villeins who

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