Explain the key features of the 1839 Peasants' Revolt in England.  

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The Peasant' Revolt was also called the Great Rising, which is a testament to the scale of the social unrest. The uprising was a response to the poor economic conditions amongst the lower classes (serfs) and the higher taxes as a result of the Hundred Year's War against France. In addition, serfs were required to perform work for the church, which they grew tired of. There was also high tension because of the Black Death that had ravaged England. The inability of local rulers to handle the problems that existed also contributed to the tension.

The immediate cause of the conflict was an attempt by a royal official to collect poll taxes in May of 1381. The violence that began locally quickly spread throughout the southern part of the country. Wat Tyler emerged as the leader of the movement. The uprising found its way to London where attempts at diplomacy failed. The rebels sought a relief in taxation, an end to serfdom, and reform amongst the king's court. When the officials for the king were not obliged to accept these terms, the rebels, with the aid of the local townspeople, ransacked the capital. They were able to capture the Tower of London, which had never been done before. Many government officials, including the archbishop, were killed since the royal army was in the northern part of the country.

By November of 1381, most of the leaders of the rebels had been executed and over 1,500 of the rebels had been killed. The king killed Wat Tyler during a meeting outside of the city and the uprising splintered apart. King Richard II, merely 14 at the time, had managed to restore order, but it took over 4,000 royal troops to make it happen.

The significance of the event is still debated by historians. While the uprising did act as a warning to future parliaments about the dangers of funding wars through taxation, the event did not necessarily change the socio-economic situation in the short term. Manor lords, out of necessity, started paying serfs more wages to work the land. This calmed the situation in the short term.

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