Monday, 16 March 2015

England Arise - Juliet Barker

Laurah Furner writes:
Juliet Barker                Photos:  Richard Wilcocks
Growing up in Kent on a road called Wat Tyler Way, I spent a great deal of my primary school history lessons hearing about the Peasants' Revolt, and being encouraged to draw pictures of angry mud-spattered men waving pitchforks at the king. After listening to historian and author Juliet Barker’s talk last night on the same subject, in relation to her latest book, England Arise, I found that my primary school education has done me a spectacular disservice on the matter.  

With a clear command of the room and a meticulous manner of speaking, Barker systematically took her audience through each myth of the Peasant’s Revolt and explained the actuality with such authority of her subject that I couldn’t help but try to scribble down every word. Barker’s account of the revolt not only explained the rebels’ unified demand for the removal of corrupt officials and freedom from serfdom, but paid particular attention to the way in which the Chronicles which ostensibly report on the event are the product of a corrupt system bent on denouncing rebellions lead by intelligent artisans and craftsmen as an ‘amorphous mass of ignorant peasants’.

Barker’s book partakes in the disassembling of this notion in a most intimate sense, using her scrupulous knowledge of the subject not just to explain the grievances which caused the rebellions, but to include the accounts of specific regions and individuals which provide a much more human aspect of the Revolt than has been attempted before. Leaving the library after the event, I came away not only with the feeling that the changes this rebellion called for are far more relevant to today’s political issues that I had once assumed, but with the notion that although this ‘revolt’ ultimately achieved none of its aims, the aspirant middle classes who attempted to expose and change a system which was corrupt on every level have been finally been given the narrative exposure their cause deserved.  

Audience comments:

Very stimulating presentation. Excellent delivery and makes you want to get to know that period of British history.

Imaginative approach, lively delivery. Just what history talks ought to be! Lovely.

Exemplary. Quite splendidly lucid and informative. Well done all-round.

Great talk from a knowledgeable and enthusiastic speaker. Audience questions also thought-provoking and relevant. Only ‘improvement’ I can think of is one or two visuals just to help along those of us with less starting knowledge.

Good focus on background which widened the scale of this popular uprising. Also role of Richard II extremely interesting.

A very interesting and lively talk. Speaker could command attention without needing illustrations – most lecturers seem to find a screen essential. She brought the past alive. I’m grateful to the LitFest for putting on this event.

Excellent talk and very good Q&A afterwards.

Most valuable account of a revolt that has not had its full story told. It was good to meet the author.

Excellent speaker, thoroughly engaging. Couldn’t have asked for better.

Excellent talk. Will definitely read the book. Great fan of Juliet Barker’s books on Brontës and Wordsworth.

Very interesting. Told me some things I did not know.

Interesting and informative filling in the huge gaps in my knowledge of the period.

Excellent. Great that it was at Headingley library too.

Very informative and insightful talk.

A fascinating talk. Great use of Headingley library.

An enthusiastic and informative talk.

A fascinating and excellent ‘lecture’. Thank you.

Fascinating, coherent, enlightening.

Very interesting and informative.

Very interesting talk. Thank you.

Very informative talk. Thank you very much.

A fascinating event. The speaker was excellent.

Excellent speaker with a really interesting story to tell.

Fascinating! Very interesting.
Always a good speaker, very informative.

Excellent event, talk.

Excellent lecture.

Very good!

1 comment:

  1. A fascinating, gripping talk put across so clearly. I look forward to reading the book.