[Sca-cooks] Revolts and economics was Spices for preservation of meats

Terry Decker t.d.decker at worldnet.att.net
Tue Nov 21 22:28:40 PST 2006

In the Peasant's Revolt of 1381, the complaint was not about hunger, but 
about the quality of the bread.  It is essentially an economic complaint 
having to do with the landholders increasing their profits while suppressing 
wages.  The revolt was based on moral indignation rather than starvation. 
In fact, many of the 14th Century peasant revolts can be described as a 
primative form of labor negotation.  While there were periods of famine in 
the 14th Century, it should be noted that they don't generally coincide with 
the revolts.

Economically, the Black Death reduced the workforce and increased individual 
wealth by inheritance in all classes of society.  A scarcity of labor led to 
rising wages to which the Statute of Laborers (1351) freezing wages was a 
political solution.  The fixed wage let the rising cost of living cut into 
the prosperity of the working class, which led to the forcible petition of 
the Crown by Wat Tyler, Jack Straw, John Ball and company.  Shortly after 
the rebellion, real wages rose swiftly until they reached a peak in the late 
15th Century that was not be be reached again until the modern period.

You need to take Clark's figures in relation to the real wage.  During the 
period described, real wages were rising despite edicts like the Statute of 
Laborers.  And they are rather low when compared to the 17th, 18th and 19th 
Centuries, when starvation wages were the norm.  It is an interesting study 
and I've saved a copy for further examination.

The rise, peak and decline of real wages roughly correlates to the change 
from the Medieval climate optimum to the Little Ice Age, but whether this is 
casual or causal in indeterminate.


----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Suey" <lordhunt at gmail.com>

Hunger is the seed of commoners' revolts during the Middle Ages
especially. In this particular case the John of Gaunts' third poll tax
did trigger off the revolt of 1381 and Savoy Palace, one of his manors,
as others, was burned down after it was sacked and peasants invaded his
forests to take game as a result.
What is my reference(s) is (are) with all my English history notes in
Madrid. Another reason for going back but due to airlines weight
restrictions books especially are coming to my new home piece meal.
I do remember Jane Plaidy made a big thing out of hunger being the pith
of the matter - at least in my eyes - in her novel about Katherine
Swynford, John of Gaunt's lover who later became his third wife. As
reading historical novels is my hobby, out of curiosity I check what
seem to be facts to see if they true and indeed I have checked this
Plaidy novel for this. In this case I found The Statute of Labor sowed
the seed of hunger for prices increased after the Black Death while
laborers' wages were frozen.
I did, however, find the Gregory Clark provides Table 3: Living Costs
1200's to the 1560's by Commodity Groups in his article on "The
Condition of Working Class in England 1209-2003 at

which states that the percentage of the laborer's income spent on grains was
8.6% between 1340-9; 12.8% 1350-9; 12.8% 1360-6; 12.4% 1370-9 and then
fell to 8.5% from 1380-9 as grain produced their "daily bread" I see a
definite correlation between reasons the Peasant Revolt and these
Back to spices, it is also to noted on this chart are pepper prices:
196.1% between 1340-9; 334.1% 1350-9; 214.4% 1360-9; 254.9 1370-9;
164.2% 1380-9. Over the same period salt prices are 23.1% between
1340-9; 55.2% 1350-9; 46.3% 1360-9 and 52.9% 1370-9; 44.1% 1380-9. Meat
and fish are not mentioned but we do know that salt was a primary
ingredient in the preservation of them. Perhaps this indicates that
lower classes could more readily prepare meat and fish for storing
during the decade of the 1380's than in previous decades immediately
following the Black Death if and when available.
Also see The Peasants’ Revolt 1381 Summary. Source:

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