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Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 [Paperback]

Dan Jones
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

4 Mar 2010

Revolt and upheaval in medieval Britain by a brilliant new narrative historian, ‘Summer of Blood’ breaks new ground in its portrayal of the personalities and politics of the bloody days of June 1381.

The Peasants’ Revolt of 1381 is one of the most dramatic and bloody events in English history. Starting with village riots in the Essex countryside, chaos rapidly spread across much of the south-east of England, as tens of thousands of ordinary men and women marched in fury to London, torching houses, slaughtering their social superiors and terrifying the life out of those who got in their way. The burning down of Savoy Palace, home to the most powerful magnate in the realm, marked one of the Revolt’s most violent episodes.

The Peasants’ Revolt has remained an underexplored period of history. In revisiting the bloody events of 1381, Dan Jones has brought back to glorious life the squalor, drama and complex hierarchies of a society that until now seemed almost too distant to imagine. His examination of village life and the failings of government from the perspective of the Revolt’s key players is both intellectually stimulating and compulsively readable.

Vivid, atmospheric and beautifully written, this is historical writing of the highest quality.

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Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 + The Plantagenets + The Norman Conquest
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: HarperPress (4 Mar 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 000721393X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007213931
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 76,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dan Jones took a first in History from Pembroke College, Cambridge in 2002. He is an award-winning journalist and a pioneer of the resurgence of interest in medieval history. His first book on the Peasants' Revolt received widespread critical acclaim. The Plantagenets is his second book. He lives in London.

Product Description


‘Combines zest and flair with an acute historical intelligence. Bold. Surprising. Unputdownable.’ David Starkey

‘Jones has certainly livened up the Middle Ages…Combining scholarly zest with novelistic flair he serves his account hot, brave and reeking with gore for a wide readership.’ The Times

‘Dan Jones seeks to uncover the idealism and brutality of this fateful summer…A fresh look.’ John Guy, Sunday Times

‘Dan Jones relates his tale with relish and zest…If anyone is looking for a racy account of England's “summer of blood” this is it.’ TLS

‘Jones's book is welcome…At his best…his prose rises to the occasion provided by the dramatic showdown between Richard and the rebels at Smithfield.’ Spectator

‘A pacy narrative.’ Daily Telegraph

‘Short, clear history of a long, hot summer.’ Scotsman

Book Description

Dan Jones reveals, as never before, the brutality of a summer when England was ripped apart.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read but questionable logic 14 Mar 2010
By DavidB
I enjoyed the story told by Dan Jones and it is a well written book but I was surprised that Jones, who tells what might be described as "the standard version" of the revolt, makes no acknowledgement that there is an alternative version which says that the rebels were highly organised even before the revolt started and thus able to take action at very short notice (see e.g. "Born in Blood" by John J. Robinson). He must surely be aware of this version but does not mention it, even to demolish it. Yet the idea that the revolt had organisation behind it seems to fit the facts better than Jones' version. For example, when the king left the Tower to meet the rebels at Mile End, Tyler, Ball and Straw all spurned the chance to meet him (even though Jones seems to suggest that meeting Richard was the rebel leaders' main objective) and remained in the City. Why did they do this? Jones does not explain, merely commenting that they were "lingering around the tower and keeping a keen eye out for any sign of movement within". Surely the only logical explanation is that the rebels knew that they were going to be let in the Tower. They had no chance of storming it so why linger outside it, especially with a meeting with the king on offer? It makes no sense unless they had lines of communication into the Tower - and that of course suggests a more oganised rising than Jones would have us believe. Jones's explanation of why the drawbridge was lowered (that those within the heavily fortified Tower suddenly became defeatist and panicked) also makes no sense. I would also criticise Jones on the amount of speculation, e.g. when describing the meeting between Tyler and the king he says that they "stood face to face, each uncertain what to do next". What is the source of this? Jones does not say. One suspects speculation and the book is full of this. I still wait for a definitive telling of the fascinating story of the peasants' revolt.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a very readable and exciting book but at times there's too much action and not enough explanation. Jones never really explains who the so-called peasants were, where they came from, what they did. Although he briefly explains who Wat Tyler and John Ball were he brings Jack Straw into the story without any explanation whatsoever. It wasn't lacking in excitement (plenty of blood and gore) and it's good readable, popular history but it needs just a bit more detail.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots Of Heads On Sticks 9 Sep 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Dan Jones' summary of the Peasants' Revolt contains background information on the environment and on the times leading up to the revolt, and a decent narrative of the revolt introducing the characters on both sides, along with some of his own conclusions.

There were numerous political factors that eventually set off the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. In fact, among the first things that struck me about the 1380s background and setting to the revolt were some of the parallels to the politics of our England of the 20th and 21st Centuries. There was of course the mediaeval Poll Tax (there were Poll Tax riots in the 1980s). Then there were the exorbitant rents levied in London and the south east by unscrupulous landlords and landowners. There were also the endless wars (in Scotland and France of course, rather than Afghanistan) that drained the public purse: "the considerable expense of paying for an army in the field became an increasing burden on a country that simply could not cope with the demands of a protracted war [Edward's] rule and his royal servants were under constant attack from the taxpaying classes, who were heartily sick of pumping cash into the yawning maw of a war bogged down in its own ambition [...] The process of impeachment was used for the first time, aimed against royal servants who were widely blamed for mismanagement of the war chest and corruption at court."

In the wake of the fairly recent (fairly recent at the time of writing this, I should add) London Riots of 2012, some of the descriptions of the rioting in the peasant's revolt - the wanton destruction, not necessarily by those with legitimate political concerns, but by those jumping on the bandwagon see the impotence of law enforcement and everything for the taking.
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29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A reminder to the governing classes 18 May 2009
As a medievalist with a particular interest in the reign of Richard II I approach "popular" books on the period with a sense of doom. How refreshing then to find one that is as well-researched as any academic study yet well-written and completely accessible to the non-specialist reader. This is a cracking story that should be on the summer holiday reading list of every politican to remind them that the people will only be pushed so far! In fact, it should be on everyone's reading list.
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34 of 39 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Elitism never sleeps... 8 Oct 2009
Intended as a populist, narrative account with little in the way of source criticism, Summer Of Blood is readable and dramatic. Jones' major contribution is his emphasis of royal acquiescence to rebel demands as a ploy to break the momentum of the Revolt, and an acknowledgement that Wat Tyler and John Ball were aware of, and sought to counter, this strategy. However, the book's value is fatally undermined by the author's inability, ultimately, to conceal his own class prejudices.

Dan Jones' account of the parley between Wat Tyler and Richard II at Smithfield gives the game away: according to Jones, Tyler was 'half-delirious', 'petulant', 'puffed-up', 'giddy with pride' and had 'lost grip on reality.' In presenting his demands for an end to ruling class oppression and exploitation in Engand, Tyler is said to have 'rasped' the 'fantasy of a madman' at 'his betters.' The choice of these less than neutral terms clearly reveals the author's personal sympathies and his failings as a historian.

There are several mistakes in the book: John Ball's letters were issued prior to the rebels' entry into London, not while Ball was in hiding following Wat Tyler's death; the order to lower the drawbridge and allow the rebels to cross London Bridge was issued by Aldorman Sibley, not William Walworth; the claim that Tyler was to seize the king and burn London was contained in the supposed confession of Jack Straw following Tyler's death, rather than being a rumour spreading throughout the city in the wake of Mile End.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 14 hours ago by d
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great book
Published 3 days ago by E. Tait
5.0 out of 5 stars The Revolt
Really interesting description of the revolt in 1381, Very easy to read but still historically accurate and includes latest views on the subject. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Angela Marston
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
His book The Plantagents was excellent, this one is the same. Well written and full of interesting facts can not fault it.
Published 5 months ago by stephen clements
4.0 out of 5 stars The Peasants Are Revolting
"Summer of Blood" is a short but comprehensive account of the Peasants Revolt of 1381. It is an enjoyable read which covers the events in great detail. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Neil Lennon
3.0 out of 5 stars A good read but full of speculation
I enjoyed this account of the events of 1381. It is well written and well structured but on many occasions the author relies too much upon imagined exchanges or motives without... Read more
Published 12 months ago by J. Bloss
5.0 out of 5 stars A good starting place for building your knowledge on the Peasant's...
This book is a fantastic introduction to the events of summer 1381, commonly known as the Peasant's Revolt. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Mrs. TK Ellis
4.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant introduction.
As a History (BA) student, I often buy the relevant `A Very Short Introduction' book to start my research. Read more
Published 17 months ago by William Strickland
5.0 out of 5 stars fscinating read
Summer of Blood is an academic history book but written in a highly readable narrative style, gives a great insight into the mood of the age with some real revelations about the... Read more
Published 21 months ago by Helvetica
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Times
If the Peasant's Revolt summons up an image of violence and stupidity then this book should prove a good antidote. Read more
Published 24 months ago by themortalmoon
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