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The Peasants' Revolting Crimes (Paperback)

P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History P&S History > True Crime

By Terry Deary
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: The Peasants' Revolting
Pages: 210
Illustrations: 32
ISBN: 9781526745576
Published: 23rd October 2019



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Popular history writer Terry Deary takes us on a light-hearted and often humorous romp through the centuries with Mr & Mrs Peasant, recounting foul and dastardly deeds committed by the underclasses, as well as the punishments meted out by those on the ‘right side’ of the law.

Discover tales of arsonists and axe-wielders, grave robbers and garroters, poisoners and prostitutes. Delve into the dark histories of beggars, swindlers, forgers, sheep rustlers and a whole host of other felons from the lower ranks of society who have veered off the straight and narrow. There are stories of highwaymen and hooligans, violent gangs, clashing clans and the witch trials that shocked a nation. Learn too about the impoverished workers who raised a riot opposing crippling taxes and draconian laws, as well as the strikers and machine-smashers who thumped out their grievances against new technologies that threatened their livelihoods.

Britain has never been short of those who have been prepared to flout the law of the land for the common good, or for their own despicable purposes. The upper classes have lorded and hoarded their wealth for centuries of British history, often to the disadvantage of the impoverished. Frustration in the face of this has resulted in revolt. Read all about it here!

This entertaining book is packed full of revolting acts and acts of revolt, revealing how ordinary folk – from nasty Normans to present-day lawbreakers – have left an extraordinary trail of criminality behind them. The often gruesome penalties exacted in retribution reveal a great deal about some of the most fascinating eras of British history.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was full of fun facts, the writing style was brilliant as I had expected from reading some of this author’s previous books and I was giggling at some of the witty comments and sometimes inappropriate things said! A fun book to read and kept me interested.

NetGalley, April Rogers

This made historical crimes accessible and fun! Fascinating and well researched.

NetGalley, Alicia Rhiannan

I liked, no I LOVED Terry Deary’s The Peasants’ Revolting CRIMES. I would recommend it for people who are age 13+ (due to minor swearing content) and you will not need to know your history because this book educates you in the revolting and hard life of the peasant... There was nothing to dislike about this book, despite its gory and bloody moments. It will tickle your funny bone for hours on end, so much so you will never put it down!

In conclusion, this is a great book for children and adults alike. It is not only comedy but it also used 100% historically accurate. You should order it now. What are you waiting for?

Read the full review here


The Peasants' Revolting... Crimes has certainly been written with entertainment of its readers in mind... those who enjoyed the Horrible Histories series in their younger years might wish to try Dreary's latest book as well.

All About History

As featured by

Antiques Diary, March/April 2020

I loved this, I thought it was so good!So funny, charming and amusing all the reasons I loved Horrible Histories as a child... read it!

Watch the full video review here

Lil's Vintage World

This is a funny little guide to "The Peasants' Revolting Crimes" through history. History doesn't have to be 'dead serious' all the time, and this book shows that history can be fun as well (although the peasants described in this book probably wouldn't agree). This book describes revolts that occurred in England from the Normans to Victorians. I really enjoyed it and I'm looking forward to the continuation, "The Peasants Revolting ... Lives".

Read the full review here

GoodReads, ConstantReader

Deary has a great writing style which makes his work easy to read and engage with, and makes you want to keep reading, which is great in a non-fiction history book, as some of them can be a bit dry. This definitely isn’t a problem with Terry Deary’s books and writing!

This book is definitely worth a read and apparently there will be more in the series with the next one entitled ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Lives’. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to the next one, it’s already on my wish list!

Read the full review here

Book Bloggerish

Listed in 'Books of 2019' feature

History Revealed

I love the Horrible Histories books; back in the day I bought them all for Becky, my youngest sister. Terry has a talent for making history both interesting and informative, often by concentrating on the horrible aspects as you’d imagine.

I wish we’d been taught history like that at school!

This fine book is more for older readers than his usual books and I feel it will have a wide audience.

Terry’s great talent is his ability to make history come to life. How many writers would have the genius to quote legendary comedian Ken Dodd: “I have kleptomania. But when it gets bad, I take something for it.” Alongside this he quotes Napoleon: “The Infectiousness of crime is like that of the plague.” Terry is a one-off writer!

The true story of Dick Turpin is a good example of the quality of this book; rather than the folk hero of legend, Turpin was actually an unpleasant and none-too-smart criminal.

Highly accessible and this book would make a fine present.

Read the full review here

Hellbound, Steve Earles

The author covers the period from the Norman Conquest to the late-eighteenth century. The crimes are everything from petty theft to forgery, murder and revolt. This book is sometimes humorous and it was good for dipping in and out of. It did keep me amused... and it is an easy to read book that builds on Deary’s ‘Horrible Histories’ books. It has a similar format to those books, with the era chapters sub-divided by crime, which makes it easy to find specific crimes in specific eras.

Read the full review here

Rosemarie Cawkwell, Blogger

Terry Deary has made his name as one of the creators of the Horrible Histories that are so engaging for children when it comes to the teaching of history. In this major new work for P&S he lays bare the kind of crimes peasants would be committing throughout modern history (from the Norman invasion to the present day), and the result is absolutely fascinating!

Books Monthly

The chapters are all broken down into sub-sections, making this easy to dip in and out of, or if you are interested in a particular type of crime or a particular period. He goes deeply into some cases where there is a lot of evidence or a moral tale. Deary has a great writing style which makes his work easy to read and engage with, and makes you want to keep reading, which is great in a non-fiction history book, as some of them can be a bit dry. This definitely isn’t a problem with Terry Deary’s books and writing!

This book is definitely worth a read and apparently there will be more in the series with the next one entitled ‘The Peasants’ Revolting Lives’. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck in to the next one, it’s already on my wish list!

Read the full review here

Tudor Blogger

In summary, this is a great book for people interested in the history of crime and the criminal justice system (and history in general) in the UK, particularly if they enjoy a humorous and ironic take on received wisdom. I am sure fans of Deary will enjoy it as well, but, despite the cover, this is not a book for young children, and I’d advise parents to check it out to decide its suitability for themselves. The book’s back cover states that the author is working on The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives, and I’ve added it to my wish list already.

Read the full review here

Author Translator, Olga Nunez Miret

Although the subject is serious, the treatment is light-hearted and thankfully most of the events took place so long ago (the most recent tales are from the 19th century) that it doesn't seem overly cruel to amuse ourselves by reading of the misfortunes of the victims, and the - often gory - punishments levied on the alleged perpetrators.

Read the full review here

Lost Cousins

Featured in the 'Christmas Gift Guide'

All About History, issue 85

It was a quick read and gave a fascinating insight into crimes and punishments throughout history. The snippets of stories were easy to read and chock full of humour that had me, quite often, chuckling out loud. If you want an introduction to crime and punishment throughout history that isn’t a huge, dull tome, then this is certainly the book for you.

Read the full review here

The Borgia Bull

This book was a delight to dive into. Deary breaks down his book by exploring the underclasses, from the nefarious Normans and the terrible Tudors to the vivacious Victorians and everyone in between. He included tales of arsonists, murderers, pirates, hooligans, beggars, rioters, and more to give readers a full view of crimes committed by those who were part of the underclasses. The topics that Deary discusses in this book can be rather dark and macabre, but it doesn’t have a dark tone to it. Instead, Deary infuses his own sense of humor that makes reading about these horrific crimes enjoyable. There were points while I was reading that I actually laughed out loud... If you want a nice, casual read that explores the lives and crimes of peasants, I highly recommend you read, “The Peasants’ Revolting…Crimes” by Terry Deary.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

I must admit that when I was given a copy of this book I couldn’t wait to read it. As a kid I was always a fan of history and then when I was a young adult, Horrible Histories books written by the great Terry Deary appeared and I have been hooked ever since. Now I know people in the history world can be a bit snobbish about Terry Deary in that they see his books as not proper history, but I love him and the books, he has done so much to get children and adults interested in history.

This book takes back to around the Norman time and we gradually come up through ages to about the Victorian time and this book covers the aspect of crime and it focuses on the peasants through the ages. Well let’s face it you would hardly go round committing crimes if you were part of the landed gentry. But the book takes us through various crimes and poor situations people found themselves in. We hear about body snatchers, highwayman, grave robbers, witches, smugglers and rustlers. They’re all in there. This is a fascinating read and very well written, the style of the book isn’t like Horrible Histories but a grown-up version, so if you enjoyed them before you’ll love this new incarnation. I really hope Pen and Sword Books publish more books similar to this and I can fully recommend it young and old alike.

See the full review here

UK Historian

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is the best way to learn history! Every book by Terry Deary is wildly entertaining, educational, and fun! His books (including this one) give the most interesting parts of history. As a teacher and a parent, I've seen these books spark students' interest in both reading and history! I HIGHLY recommend this book (and all books by this author)!

NetGalley, Janette Forman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. It was funny and interesting. Some of the crimes are ones I had heard of but most were obscure examples. I could tell the author completed a lot of thorough research. I enjoyed out the of context quotes that correlated with the chapter.

NetGalley, Stefanie Coleman

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is most definitely not your Mother's history book! You will find NO boring, often told and retold historical events in this book. What you will find is plenty of individual historical events that will entertain as well as educate. Both action and consequence are told with an origin twist of humor that will have you looking for more of Terry Deary's books of history and how it sometimes is stranger, much stranger, than fiction.

NetGalley, Denice Langley

This is the kind of book that makes history accessible and fun. There are a lot of interesting facts written in a way that flows easily. I found myself laughing out loud quite often. Highly recommended!

NetGalley, Morris Morgan

I know Terry Deary's work from the Horrible History series. Even though this is marked adult I think its fine for high school students and am planning on placing it onto one of my own Historical Literature booklists soon.

NetGalley, Jennifer Naughton

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I thought that this book was excellent!

It was full of fun facts, the writing style was brilliant as I had expected from reading some of this author’s previous books and I was giggling at some of the witty comments and sometimes inappropriate things said!

I read the book over the space of a few days as it is one that you can easily dip in and out of and it was a book I genuinely looked forward to picking up. The layout and chapter length was spot on too.

It was interesting and informative - it is 5 stars from me for this one, I thought it was excellent - jam packed full of facts, and fun too - very highly recommended!!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

This was a well written book. This is my first time reading anything from Terry Deary. The stories were well written and entertaining. A few of my favorites where of the Peasants getting revenge on the rich people.

If you want a quick and entertaining read, I recommend this book.

NetGalley, Tomas Garcia

Although the writing is light hearted and humorous it nevertheless contains a multitude of facts and information that shows that there has always been an egalitarian tradition in this country that was prone to constant suppression. Revolt in the face of repression is a theme running through the centuries. There is much ground covered here as he also looks at the underside of society with highwaymen, hooligans, forgers and sheep rustlers. Witches, grave robbers and garroters are just some of the other subjects covered in this extensive but always accessible foray into the real often covered up story of the past. Recommended for both young and old this may well lead the reader onto further study.

NetGalley, G Heard

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Most will recognise the name of this author as the writter of the Horrible Histories books, in this book he turns to writing for more mature audience. Which he does thought out the book you feel his sense of humour is still very much part of the book.

The stories included ones about murder, robbery and unusual tales of selling one's spouses and impersonating a Egyptian.

As with the Horrible Histories the book interesting, informative and fun to read and really enjoyed this book.

I would definitely recommend this book too people enjoy reading history , with a large dose of humour added it is also great for those who find history books boring.

NetGalley, S Ballinger

Being a big fan of Horrible Histories I was really interested to see how Terry would write for a more mature audience and I was happy to find out that his sense of humour is still very much present. The amusing quotes throughout helped to lighten a sometimes dark topic such as revolts and the oppression that people went through, though some did make me roll my eyes. I actually enjoyed the section on the history of football! Which I never thought I'd say, if football was more like it was back then with no rules and violence I'd be more interested in watching it. There are the usual tales of murder, robbery and body snatching but there are also the less usual selling of spouses and impersonating a Egyptian. If you enjoy reading about the darker side of history with a sense of fun (and dad jokes) give this a go!

NetGalley, Ellen Cahill

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It’s always a joy to read anything from Terry Deary and this book is no exception! Interesting and informative without inducing boredom!
5/5 and I highly recommend.

NetGalley, Samantha Lynn

I really enjoyed this book by Terry Deary. I felt like he was sitting on my shoulder reading it aloud to me... Loved all the Quotes spaced throughout and I did learn a good few things. Including bursting my Dick Turpin being a good looking Highwayman bubble!! The Poor Peasants, rich get rich and the poor suffer, sometimes horrifically!!!

NetGalley, Hazel Thomson

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This is a fascinating and entertaining book. Well written and interesting. There are some great stories of the peasants getting even with the rich.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

The stories were fun to read, enjoyed the quotes a lot too. Would highly recommend this book and author.

NetGalley, Kaye Temanson

This book uses my favorite Terry Pratchett quote. You know, the one about fire and man.
Yep, that one. Now you want to read it don’t you?
So, I don’t have to say anything else, do I?
Oh, alright.
Deary’s book lists crimes committed by the little people. These include women who murdered their husbands (who sometimes deserved it), Dick Turpin (who wasn’t hot), the Fairy Flag (you’re understand when you read it), the morality of the Fairy Flag among other stories.
There is also the wonderment of a why is there always just one survivor. Though that girl who ran ten miles while injured was bad ass.
The history is done tongue in cheek, but actually does raise some good points. Like did the Stuarts kill Shakespeare? (Seriously, it doesn’t really ask that question, but he did die during the Stuarts, so anything is possible).
There are even sports. I knew Chaucer was a bit of a football hooligan but there is a bunch of other football stories that seem to indicate that English fans have calmed down a bit. There is a bit about assassinations. The one about the Egyptians.
Like the mention of Turpin above, some of the cases are famous, for instance Mary Ann Cotton, but most are not as popular or well known. So, there are little gems -such as what some women did to the dead members of an army as well as letting you know what the difference between blackmail and settlement is. This is important for your future.
And the quotes. Oh, the wonderful quotes. Learning history should always be this fun.

NetGalley, Christine Ethier

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

"The Peasants' Revolting Crimes" by Terry Deary is a lighthearted, fact-filled history of ghastly crimes and equally gruesome punishments. Did you know about the Halifax Gibbet, a head slicing device used for petty theft committed by "peasant pilferers"? "Lifting shopper suffered chopper". Did you know that the word "quack" comes from the old Dutch word 'quacksalver"-"someone who quacks (boasts) about the virtues of his salves and medicine?" A highly recommended tome.

NetGalley, Fran Eichenauer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Most will recognise the name of this author as he has written Horrible Histories books, which although written for young people have been enjoyed by older as well. History as such can become a rather dry subject, especially when it comes down to remembering dates and certain events, but of course it can be made more fun, as Deary has done here. Yes, there are certain events in history that are important, but unless you understand the social context of these then they can become rather meaningless, and this book of course concentrates on the socio-historical side of things, which in this case is crime.

Some of the things that are written about here many will be aware of, but of course there are many things that you are probably ignorant about or only know a basic bit of, especially when it comes to crime. Of course, criminal acts can be done by rich or poor, but if you are well off you are hardly likely to nick a loaf of bread and other foodstuffs or go poaching. Reminding us that Mr and Mrs Peasant (the majority of us) have had some harsh deals over the centuries this is written in a fun and entertaining style.

Taking us back to Norman times, the Medieval period, Tudor times, in the reign of the Stuarts, and along to the Georgian and Victorian period, we also have sections that take in particular incidents and crimes. By also giving us news stories that are contemporary to us so we can see that a number of things still take place, after all cutpurses no longer exist because we do not wear pouches of money on our belts, but such things as muggings and pickpockets still exist.

As still happens today, so there seems to be at times one rule for the rich and another for the rest of us and at times punishments meted out have been far in excess of what you would expect. Also we can see where mistakes have been made so what were called cunning people were executed for witchcraft, something which does not exist. Reminding us of the horrors of the past, and our lack of freedom, so some things have changed for the better over the centuries, but of course others have not really changed much at all.

NetGalley, Martin Dowden

About Terry Deary

Terry Deary is an actor, TV presenter and author. He has written 325 books, both non-fiction and fiction, for children and adults. His famous Horrible Histories books have sold over 35 million copies in 45 languages since their launch in 1993 and have appeared as an award-winning television series, theatre tours and a movie. He has also written fifty professional plays, the TV series Terry Deary’s Twisted Tales and has designed museum exhibitions based on themes from his books. He was born in Sunderland in 1946 and as a young lad helped out in his father’s butcher’s shop, which he credits as having imbued him with a sound work ethic. The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives is his second book for adults for Pen & Sword, after The Peasants’ Revolting… Crimes (2019).

Perfect Partner

The Peasants' Revolting Lives (Paperback)

Today we are aware of how the rich and privileged have lived in the past because historians write about them endlessly. The poor have largely been ignored and, as a result, their contributions to our modern world are harder to unearth. Skilled raconteur TERRY DEARY takes us back through the centuries with a poignant but humorous look at how life treated the common folk 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. Discover the stories of the teacher turned child-catcher who…

By Terry Deary

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