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The Peasants' Revolting Lives (ePub)

P&S History > British History P&S History > Social History

By Terry Deary
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: The Peasants' Revolting
File Size: 883.4 KB (.epub)
ISBN: 9781526745620
Published: 15th May 2020


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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 rounded up local waifs and strays and put them to work, and the thousands of children who descended into the hazardous depths to dig for coal. Read all about the agricultural workers who escaped the Black Death only to be thwarted by greedy landowners. And would you believe the one about the man who betrothed his 7-year-old daughter to a Holy Roman Emperor, or even the brothel that was run by a bishop?

On the flip side, learn how cash-strapped citizens used animal droppings for house building and as a cure for baldness; how sparrow’s brains were incorporated into aphrodisiacal brews; and how mixing tea with dried elder leaves could turn an extra profit. And of the milestones that brought some meaning to ordinary lives, here are the trials and tribulations of courtship and marriage; the ruthless terrors of the sporting arena; and the harsh disciplines of education – all helping to alleviate the daily grind.

The Peasants’ Revolting… Lives celebrates those who have 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 and endurance in the face of hardship.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Fabulous book as is always from Terry Deary

As with all his books I find this to be very interesting and amusing!

It begins with sobering statistics of poverty amongst children in the UK and then backtracks though key events such as The Peasants Revolt of 1381.

NetGalley, S Ballinger

"It is a well thought-out, entertaining and interesting publication which I would recommend to anyone wanting to know about things beyond Lords, Ladies, Kings and Queens."

Medieval Settlement Research journal

As featured in

Cambridge Independent August 2021

Video review featured on Lil's Vintage World

Lil's Vintage World

Terry Deary’s The Peasants’ Revolting Lives is a fun and fascinating read for all the family. Whenever a Terry Deary book arrives on the doorstep, there is an inevitable squabble between myself and my son as to who should read it first – I tend to lose!

With stories that are often amusing, sometimes gruesome and all true, Terry Deary examines every aspect of the life of the peasant – throughout history – from work and religion, to sport, entertainment and education. The book is packed full of facts, each story or anecdote intended to inform and entertain – and they do!

The Peasants’ Revolting Lives is a wonderful reading experience for adult and child alike. The stories are so engaging and interesting that you don’t even realise you are learning about the trials and hardships of life as a peasant down the centuries. It is a must-read for any history lover.

Read the full review here


Author Q&A as featured by

The Northern Echo, 20th June 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I found this a really interesting and informative read told with humour , as you would expect from Terry Deary.
Talk about the ‘ good old days’ ! What lives the poor lead , and as for the cruelty inflicted on animals in the name of entertainment, I could hardly read some of the pages.
Loved all the Horrible History books I’ve read with my children and this book doesn’t disappoint .

NetGalley, Alison Bevington

Deary has a talent for finding the perfect quote, and although I was familiar with a few of the ones he uses, he manages to make them shine and finds some true gems totally new to me. He manages to create a clear picture of life in different historical periods without getting lost in lengthy descriptions and can turn little-known historical events into memorable nuggets of information in only a few words.

If the last book dealt with “crimes”, this time he focuses on life as it was for a large part of the population, picks up certain events like the peasants’ revolts (there have been many over the years, and although the protagonists have been different, the reasons behind them, and the consequences for the less powerful hardly change), but also talks about general subjects, like health, education, even housing (he has plenty of fun talking about the materials used in construction), football (it has often been banned; and it’s not surprising, to be honest), Ireland, children’s work, the police force… As I have said, this is a book for adults, and some of the content can be quite disturbing, so I don’t recommend it for those looking for a light and gentle read.

Despite the witticisms and the great quotes (and I have marked far too many to mention), this is a book intended as a sincere homage to those who are often left out of most conventional History texts. It is informative, entertaining, fun, and also poignant at times. Although the author’s style and his sense of humour might not suit everybody (I’d suggest readers try a sample to see how they like it before purchasing it), I recommend it to anybody interested in reading a different kind of British History (in particular, although much of the information would be relevant to European History in general), and are not looking for a fact and data-heavy academic tome, but rather for a memorable peek at those parts of the population often forgotten in official chronicles.

Read the full review here

Author Translator

He provides facts and interesting anecdata to amuse and inform. It’s a grown up version of Horrible Histories that might lead you to look into a subject in greater detail and which returns to the light the lives of those often ignored in ‘school history’.

Read the full review here

Rosie Writes

To explore so many different centuries shows Deary’s advanced knowledge of the past, which is quite extraordinary, especially when he combines his casual writing style with his wonderful wit to make this book so engaging.

Read the full review here

Adventures of a Tudor Nerd

Terry Deary latest "horrible history" looks at the Peasants' Revolt and what led to it. Most of it is unthinkable, and I can't think of anyone better to tell this particular piece of compelling English history. Absolutely brilliant!

Books Monthly

I should say that I have always been a big fan of Terry Deary and the Horrible Histories books, this series is a series aimed at adults, so it’s a little bit more serious and less aimed at the kids market. I should say that I have already read the previous book about crime and this is in a similar manner in that it looks at how the peasants handle/deal with their lives. All the chapters are divided up well which makes the book easy to dip in and out of. I think it’s much better this series that it focuses on the normal poor people as most of history is usually written about rulers, kings and queens. The book is a mixture of facts, information and humour and makes for an ideal mix. This has been a brilliant book to read and I would wholeheartedly recommend it for others to read, I’m so glad that I was given the chance to review as I adore Terry Deary and his books.

Read the full review here

UK Historian

I grew up reading Terry Deary's books and I've been hooked on his way of storytelling since I was 8 years old probably. Horrible History was one of my all time favourite book series and I used to have a big collection.
Terry never disappoints no matter what he writes!

NetGalley, Kristina Ilieva

Not only is The Peasants' Revolting Lives filled with great information, it has also unleashed the wit and sarcasm of Mr. Terry Deary.

Once I was able to follow the writing style, I settled in for the long haul. I was pleased that Mr. Deary took the time to add footnotes, as well, to help the reader further understand the material.

The peasants truly had revolting lives. No matter what the peasants did, they were not able to get out from under the foot of tyranny.
They lived in squalor, any increase in income came with an increase in taxes, medicine was not readily available, and they were made to play sports which could result in their death. The peasants quite literally worked themselves to death if the plague didnt get to them first.

I would recommend this book as a history lesson and as a pleasure read. It was well worth it.

NetGalley, Amy Corkins

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

It was an interesting read as it tells the story by the POV of the peasants, looking at their life in every aspect.
We use to think about other ages as moments when life was simpler and easier.
The author does a great job in explaining that we are wrong and I liked his style of writing and the humour.
An excellent and informative read, highly recommended.

NetGalley, Anna Maria Giacomasso

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.

Having read Terry Deary’s books when I was younger, to be able to continue to read them as an adult is it a great thing. Full of his typical jokes and informal way of teaching you about the world, Terry Deary when it comes to history is in a class of his own when it comes to sharing history with the world in a way that makes it easier to digest than ever before... What I enjoyed about Horrible Histories is magnified here and given more free reign and I enjoy the book for it.

An entertaining book as usual, I recommend it for anyone who likes history but needs something a little less heavy!

NetGalley, Victoria Caswell

So let me be clear, huge, HUGE Terry Deary fan. I read the books, watched the shows, saw the movies, sang the songs...

This is a little more adult and hopeless than Horrible Histories but it has the same humor (Mr. Deary sure does love his puns) and you close the book fully confident that you have learned something... If there is someone that I would want to be immortal, it’s this man. More Terry Deary, please!

NetGalley, Lucs Books

I always enjoyed reading Horrible History books with my children. This book is for adults but is written in a similar way to the Horrible History ones.
This book is easy to dip into. There are clearly laid out chapters, each with a different theme. It doesn't need to be read in order, so it's a good book to pick up if you haven't got time to read a longer book.
Terry Deary backs up his narrative with quotes, and discussion about the opinions of the time. He cleverly uses historical themes as well as more recent ones, and compares how things have changed.
It is an eye opener to read about the lives of the poor, and what went on behind the scenes in affluent times so to speak. Terry Deary uses a mixture of facts,seriousness, wit and humour to get his point across. This makes the book easy and enjoyable to read. It is informative, but also entertaining.
If you liked the Horrible History books then you will enjoy this.

NetGalley, Emma Messenger

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

This book was fascinating! I'd recommend it to anyone. After reading this book I feel especially well prepared for a night of trivia. It was incredibly perceptive as it explored daily life and personal practices, living situations, origins of certain folklore, and social implications of peasantry, leading up to their revolt.

I loved the beginning question about choosing to live in any time in history and the answers that followed.

In referencing the Golden Age, comparing its perils to today, it was an enlightening exploration of how the impoverished experienced a certain way of life that only illuminated today’s strides in addressing social injustice, occupational hazards, sanitation, animal cruelty, entertainment, death, marriage, childbirth, child labor, legislation, literacy, technology, educational systems, captivity, and even sports.

Occupations themselves, such as matchstick girls, stood out to be one of the most shocking to me as far as risk for safety is concerned especially because of how far we have come in this world. It really gave a lot of perspective, respect, and value to our advancement in civilization.

The writing style was upfront clear and honest which I liked and further emphasized the very matter of fact tone and subject matter. The content showed a stark contrast as far as how humanity and social norms in general have come, which also lended itself to some humor since some of the concepts back in the day were quite absurd. There were bits of personal interjections that were lighthearted and confirming to my feelings which made this an amusing book to read.

I won’t comment too much on the writing in more detail or the organization itself because I did receive an ARC that was more in somewhat of an outline form than a final, cohesive piece. I do think from that standpoint the final form will likely be supportive enough to deliver such great content.

The quotes from historical figures and summarizations of points in time brought so much enrichment and credibility. References to classic literature, various philosophers, and playwrights such as Shakespeare was incredibly satisfying to me.

I think that each topic could also be expanded to provide further historical context and rationales of the time in a series type form, so I will be looking forward to reading more from this author.

NetGalley, Erica Robbin

As always Terry Deary presents his readers with an equally informative as entertaining book.

NetGalley, Sarah Matsson-Klingzell

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Oh my goodness. I have never read a history book with so much humor and insight. I loved this book. Its a brief history lesson of British, Welsh, Irish, and French peasants and how they tried to live their lives and the struggle against the rich landowners.
I thought that some chapters were too brief...but then again this was NOT an exhaustive history on peasants revolting. It is at most brief glimpses into peasant lives.

A great book about some of histories forgotten peasants and their poor, hard scrabble lives.

NetGalley, Jennifer Juenke

This is an ambitious tribute to a huge section of the population who throughout history have been forgotten, largely ignored, their memory is not recalled by a statue except for a handful but who survived with courage and fortitude. It begins with sobering statistics of poverty amongst children in the UK and then backtracks to our forebears though key events such as The Peasants Revolt of 1381 as well as the oppressed of subsequent generations. There’s a wide range of subjects that are included and analysed with the peasants in mind, interspersed with appropriate quotations from a wide variety of sources and of course with the Terry Deary brand of humour for which he is well known.

This is a well written, lively book mixing sobering facts, debunking myths all of which is told with wit and puns. He makes valid points when comparing those who get their monuments to ‘greatness’ and the actions of those who don’t. Frequently, the overlooked conduct far braver acts then those that are remembered. Much of recorded history is written by the educated who are rarely peasants as an educated peasant would be one you probably wouldn’t trust to stay in his box and so of course these accounts will not often include peasantry as they are of no consequence. I especially like the peasants revolt sections which links to future protests such as the Luddites. The slavery of the industrial revolution factories contains shocking and horrifying anecdotes that demonstrate an apathetic lack of care that beggars belief. I like the section that looks at female peasants who’s lack of rights emphasises that’s its HIStory because HE is the lawmaker and she isn’t. It covers topics too numerous to mention but I found the development of football particularly funny.

I really like the premise of the book, it’s thought provoking and enjoyable as it’s written accessibly and humorously. Most peasants bar a few such as Wat Tyler are completely forgotten but the author shows they are the heroes of history and the progress and wealth of Britain is attributed to their hard labour. Terry Deary is a prolific writer and one I admire as he has encouraged a younger audience to take an interest in a subject I’m passionate about by taking a humorous approach and as a former history teacher I can only thank him for that. This book is suitable for adults and YA although good younger readers would probably enjoy it too.

NetGalley, Ceecee Short

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Peasants' Revolting Crimes so when I saw that the author had a new release out, The Peasants' Revolting Lives I jumped at the chance of reading it and had devoured the whole book within hours of it landing on my Kindle - I thoroughly enjoyed it!!

The book 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 more than once I did think that the comments were a bit near the knuckle, it certainly made it a fun read and it is definitely my kind of humour! The layout and chapter length was spot on too.

It was interesting and informative and an excellent read overall - it is 5 stars from me for this one, I thought it was brilliant - full of facts, and fun too, the perfect book to read if you are looking for something a little different too - very highly recommended!!

NetGalley, Donna Maguire

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).

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