The Peasants' Revolting Lives
The author of the Horrible Histories series tells the unpleasant truth about what the poor have endured in this sharp-witted, pull-no-punches book. British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli once described the rich and poor as “two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets.” Today we’re well aware of the habits, thoughts, and feelings of the rich, because historians write about them endlessly. The poor, though, are largely ignored and, as a result, their contributions to our modern world are forgotten. Here, Terry Deary takes us back through the centuries with a poignant but humorous look at how life treated the ordinary people who scratched out a living at the very bottom of society. Their world was one of foul food, terrible toilets, danger, disease and death—the last usually premature. Wryly told tales of deprivation, exploitation, sickness, mortality, warfare, and religious oppression fill these pages—the teacher turned child-catcher who rounded up local waifs and strays before putting them to work; the agricultural workers who escaped the clutches of the Black Death only to be thwarted by lordly landowners; the hundreds of children who descended into the inky depths of hazardous coal mines. You’ll discover ingenuity: how cash-strapped citizens used animal droppings for house building, how sparrow’s brains were incorporated into aphrodisiacal brews, and how extra money was made by mixing tea with dried elder leaves—and learn how courtship, marriage, sport, entertainment, education, and, occasionally, achievement briefly illuminated the drudgery. The Peasants’ Revolting Lives explores, commemorates, and celebrates the lives of those who endured against the odds. From medieval miseries to the idiosyncrasies of being a twenty-first-century peasant, tragedy and comedy sit side by side in these tales of survival in the face of hardship.