|Causes of the 100 Years War
The 100 Years War was not actually an ongoing war, but a series of interconnected battles that occurred over a period of about 116 years between England and France. The population of Europe is finally starting to rebuild after the Black Plague, and labor is in high demand. The peasant work force was at very low numbers due to the magnitude unto which the black plague decimated the population. This made peasant laborers a premium resource. The cost to hire laborers went sky high as property values plummeted.
In 1358 there was a peasant revolt north of Paris called the Jacquerie. This revolt was lead by a man by the name of William Cale. The revolt occurred because of excessive taxation that the French government has imposed after being defeated by the English as the first battle of Poitiers. Most of the French government and the King were captured by the English after the battle. This caused a breakdown of law and order in France. With no one to command them, bands of mercenaries went rampaging about the countryside, killing and pillaging. With the French army defeated, there was no one to oppose them in France. What was left of the French government tried to rebuild their army and ransom the King back with tax money. Unfortunately for them they couldn’t do much of anything. In June of 1358 the peasants fathered arms and supplies in order to attack those they felt were responsible for their problems, the merchant and noble classes. Homes of the wealthy middle upper classes were prime targets. The cities of Senlis and Mont Didier were sacked and burned by the peasant army. Cale now had a field army of about 20,000 strong.
France once again has a leader, Charles the Bad. During the battle of Mello on June 10, 1358 a rebuilt French army commanded by Charles annihilated the peasant army. After the battle was over Charles had the survivors rounded up and executed as an example to all others about what will happen if they attempt to revolt again.
Shortly before the peasant revolts in France began to appear, England was having peasant revolts of its own. At this time there was more work, more land, and more wealth being spread about the lower classes. This was yet another side effect of the Black Plague. In 1351 the English Parliament not wanted to see the lower classes gain status, wealth, and power passes laws limiting the mobility of peasants. They also set a wage freeze, which forced the peasants to keep the same grueling work load, but never receiving any more money for their efforts. In 1377 the Pole Tax was set forth. This set off a large scale English peasant revolt. The English parliament was desperate to fun the war effort in France. The tax began as being 4 pence per person and later increased to 12 pence per person in 1381. This was a serious problem for the peasants because they couldn’t really afford to even pay the 4 pence tax. In June of 1381 Thomas Baker was sent to the city of Brentwood to levy these taxes. He and his men were driven out of town. Once again he tried to collect the taxes, this time with a small force of man at arms, and once again they were driven out by the towns’ people. In an attempt to meet with the King, the peasants of Essex and Kent took up arms and marched to London. However, the king Edward the III had just died and Richard II being only 14 years old was not able to play a role in the government. This was yet again another set back for the English peasants. Since they were not able to meet with the King, the peasants turned their sights on the corrupt officials who were now in control of the government. One of these corrupt officials was John of Gaunt, who was in fact the Kings Uncle who was obsessed with becoming the King of Castille in Spain.