Edward III astounded much of Europe with his military prowess, which aroused a sense of patriotism and nationalism in England. This happened even despite the prolonged war with Spain. By the 1370s, the continued wars took its toll on England. John of Gaunt and the Earl of Pembroke suffered severe losses on the Continent, and English continental possessions fell into the hands of its enemies. English towns were sacked. Moreover, the Black Plague spread across England three times in one century.Share
The heavy loss of life created a shortage of labor, providing the serfs an opportunity to claim their freedom. Demanding a high pride for his expert services, the serf became an important figure in England’s social strata.
1349 saw the passage of law forbidding the increase of wages and the fixing of food prices, but the law’s passage of could not hold off economic exigency, and laborers went wherever they could earn the most money for their work. The peasant class became a nomadic population, and the laborer developed a spirit of independence.
To bring an end to these trends, a law was passed allowing the killing on sight of any laborer who violated the law. A wave of lawlessness resulted, which culminated in the march on London in 1381. The peasants demanded freedom under the inspiration of John Ball, Wat Tyler, and Jack Straw. (Read more.)