The Many Roles of Wat Tyler

Alastair Dunn reviews the afterlife of an English rebel.

Few commoners before the age of popular democracy have made a more enduring impression on England’s collective political memory than Wat Tyler. The leader of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt, whose followers wrecked the commercial heart of medieval London and slaughtered many of its mercantile and legal élite, has six of the city’s streets named after him – four more than Sir William Walworth, the mayor at whose hands he reputedly perished, and two more than the most famous London mayor, and benefactor of the city, Richard Whittington.

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