Summer of Blood, By Dan Jones

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The Independent Culture

For all our grumbles about corrupt governors and over-mighty financiers, a docile nation no longer marches to unseat its exploiters as the Estuary English folk of Kent and Essex did in 1381.

Dan Jones's swift and thrilling close-up history of the Peasants' Revolt and the savage reprisals in its aftermath takes us on a "frenzied, bloodied trip".

As the wider context yields to (literal) blow-by-blow narration, he shows that rebellion stemmed not from poverty but relative affluence.

The elite had tried, via poll taxes and feudal revivals, to win back the ground lost in the high-wage, labour-shortage decades after the Black Death.

So John Ball preached equality, Wat Tyler and his bands took up arms, and the rag-tag insurgents left a trail of blood through the detested City.

Only a risky last-ditch showdown by teenage Richard II saved his throne, his nobles – and those hated bankers left alive as well.

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