Wat Tyler: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Heather Jenkins

Heather has a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in special education. She was a public school teacher and administrator for 11 years.

In the history of Great Britain, people sometimes revolted against the government, including a man named Wat Tyler. In this lesson, you'll learn about Wat Tyler, the revolt he led, and why he is important in history.

Why People Revolt

Have you ever revolted against a decision your parents made? Maybe you tried to hold your breath until your parents agreed to get you that new video game or refused to clean your room until they let you paint it black with orange polka dots. Chances are, those attempts to change your parents' decisions didn't work out like you planned. Over the course of history, many people have revolted against decisions they didn't like, some more successfully than others.

In 1381, the people of medieval England were very poor and found King Richard II's rule harsh. A man named Wat Tyler, from a town called Kent, helped lead the Peasants' Revolt against the king. The Peasants' Revolt was the first popular rebellion in the history of England. A popular rebellion occurs when a large number of citizens in a country protest or go against their leader.

Wat Tyler led a historic revolt that challenged King Richard II and his rules. So, 'wat' did Wat Tyler actually do?

Drawing of Wat Tyler

King Richard & the Poll Tax

Can you imagine being so poor that you often went for days without eating? What if you were forced to work on other people's lands when you didn't have enough time to plant crops for your family? What if you were made to pay a tax when you simply didn't have the money? These are the types of situations poor people faced in medieval England.

In 1381, King Richard II demanded that all citizens pay a poll tax, or a flat tax, that many peasants could not afford. If you want to know how they felt, imagine that every person in your class had to pay $1,000 to the principal; that's a lot of money!

The Peasants' Revolt

Wat Tyler didn't like the way King Richard II continued to tax peasants when they had so little money. So he led a group of peasants to London in an effort to make King Richard II hear their complaints. But the peasants killed government officials and burned buildings in Canterbury. They also destroyed tax records, so no one could see who hadn't paid taxes.

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