Through undergoing the research process, I was able to gain a deeper insight into the methods used by historians in forming arguments about periods where significant gaps in the historical record exist. Due to the nature of the event as centering around illiterate peasants and having transpired over 600 years ago, the focus on secondary sources was necessary. Most of the qualitative primary accounts came from the monastic chroniclers whose origin and personal bias significantly influenced the description of events while quantitative evidence was often fragmented. As a result, I needed to extrapolate and fill in the gaps using secondary analysis but this was tempered by the analysis and evaluation of historical perspectives. I also initially struggled in refining my research question as it oscillated between being too broad, leading to overly descriptive writing and too narrow and if I were to undergo the process again, I would try to focus my research question at the beginning so that I could effectively find information. Ultimately, the process raised questions about the role of historical interpretation and the implications of demographic changing events.
Throughout the writing and research process, I’ve been able to find a plethora of secondary sources but have had some issues in ascertaining primary sources that represent a wide range of perspectives. Since of the rebels and the vast majority of the population were illiterate and any few records from the lower classes have survived, it has been difficult to find sources that come directly from the peasants and the other rebels. Instead, I’ve tried to gauge their motivations and the zeitgeist amongst the serfs by considering their actions during the revolt, something that has been documented by monastic chroniclers. This issue with this is the disconnect between socio-political sentiments and revolutionary action. However, through trying to cross-reference secondary interpretations and trying to place actions in the historical context, I’ve tried to limit the extent of the gap. I have also tried to take the ideology and political basis of the historian under consideration when cross-referencing.
Today, I’ve widened my understanding of my EE topic as I’ve been able to learn more about the context of the 1381 Peasant’s Revolt. I focused today on the writing one of my main sections: the role of the Black Death in causing the Revolt. I also began writing my introduction. I researched and wrote about the socio-economic implications of the outbreak of the plague and the way in which these increased class divisions in Britain. This involved learning more about the social aspects such as the 1363 Sumptuary laws which aimed to restore visible class distinctions. At this point, I’m proud of the way I was able to widen my understanding of the historical debate surrounding the topic and finding some useful primary sources such as John Gower. Seeing as my EE is focused on a topic that happened in the Middle Ages, I had initially struggled with finding some primary sources but I’ve been able to do so today. I accomplished more than I expected and end up writing around 850 words. Moving forward, I think I want to focus on expanding my introduction and focusing on the other causes of the revolt such as the rise of revolutionary ideology and the role of the 100 years war. Since my initial question focused on the Black Death, I will also need to find more sources about these other two sections.