The medieval longing for the good old days

Hannah Skoda explores how late medieval Europe saw an upsurge in misty-eyed yearning for the 'good old days'...

Illustration by Femke De Jong

This article was first published in the Christmas 2016 edition of BBC History Magazine

“When Adam dug and Eve span, Who was then a gentleman?” So spoke John Ball, one of the leaders of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, and a fiery, rousing preacher. As reported in the chronicle of Thomas Walsingham, Ball evoked a lost world, in which men were equal, free and dignified. Protesters should, declared Ball, like “a good husbandman… uprooting the tares [weeds] that are accustomed to destroy the grain”, rise up to restore this age of liberty.

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