MEDIEVAL PEASANT ARMY
"XIII - XIV A.D.".
The peasants are revolting! That may be a very old double entendre but it was very often true in later medieval Europe. A steadily growing population produced more wealth for the landowners, creating a widening gap between the rich and poor. However the catastrophic famines and plagues of the 14th century (particularly the Black Death of 1347-50) caused a sharp drop in the number of peasants, who therefore became a scarce resource and gained some economic power. Various attempts by the landed classes to restore their former revenues by taxing the remaining peasantry more heavily and reimposing feudal dues inevitably resulted in many rebellions, from minor local disturbances to major outbreaks. Increasingly some had wider social goals too, such as the revolt of Hans Böhm in 1476, but whatever the cause the history of medieval Europe is littered with peasants taking up arms.
While peasants might often be dissatisfied with their lot in life, it usually took a charismatic local leader to stir up a true revolt. When that happened the peasants made the best of what they had as they descended on their intended victims. Naturally they wore their ordinary clothes, which would have been a shirt covered with a tunic, and hose on the legs. The head might be covered by a hat but the very practical hood was a popular alternative, while an arming-cap was also commonly seen, and of course some might go bare-headed. This is exactly what we find on these figures, with most having the classic appearance of the common man of the time. We should however point out that this set is rather confused in terms of dates, because while the front of the box claims the 13th and 14th centuries are covered, the back says it covers the 13th to 15th centuries, while the insert mentions Thomas Müntzer, whose revolt occurred in the 16th century!
- 42 figuren