Unexpected Review: The Peasants’ Revolting Crimes, by Terry Deary

The Peasants' Revolting Crimes
ISBN: 9781526745576
Buy here
Published: 23rd October 2019
Price: £8.00

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.

My Review

Thanks to Rosie Crofts at Pen & Sword for sending me this book. I’m making my way through my book backlog while trying to keep up with my blog tour commitments.

It’s popular history, so don’t expect in-depth discussion of the crimes or events covered in the book. The author has a rather broad definition of ‘peasant’. A peasant is:

person who owns or rents a small piece of land and grows cropskeeps animals, etc. on it, especially one who has a low income, very little education, and a low social position. This is usually used of someone who lived in the past or of someone in a poor country

https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/peasant

Deary’s broader definition seems to be broadened to ‘a person with a low income and a low social position’. So long as they don’t have land and extensive income or property, the author classes them as a peasant.

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 (even when I had to correct minor things) 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. Deary uses quotes judiciously to support the text.

Probably a good one for children interested in history who have read all the ‘Horrible Histories’.

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