John Ball

d.1381. A leader of the 1381 Peasants' Revolt. An unbeneficed priest in York and Colchester, Ball evidently began to attack the structures of society. He was forbidden to preach in 1366, but continued to denounce clerical prelates and to proclaim the right not to pay tithes to unworthy clergy and also the equality of bondsmen and gentry. In 1381 he was in prison, but was released by the Kentish rebels and quickly became a widely known leader of the revolt. Basing his notorious Blackheath sermon on the rhyme “When Adam dalf, and Eve span, Who was then the gentilman?” he encouraged the killing of everyone who was harmful to the community. When the rebellion collapsed he was captured and sentenced to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. He cannot be regarded as a disciple of Wycliffe; his views were produced before Wycliffe was well known, they did not include doctrinal grievances-and Wycliffe in any case strongly condemned the rebellion.