John Ball

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Ball, John

Ball, John, d. 1381, English priest and social reformer. He was one of the instigators of the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 (see under Tyler, Wat). He was an itinerant for many years, acting independently of the influence of John Wyclif and advocating ecclesiastical poverty and social equality. Excommunicated in 1376, he was in prison at Maidstone when the rebels released him in 1381. After the dispersal of the rebels, Ball was captured at Coventry. He was taken to St. Albans, where he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. He is perhaps best remembered for giving currency to the couplet “When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?” William Morris wrote one of his works on utopian socialism under the title The Dream of John Ball.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Ball, John


Year of birth unknown; died July 15, 1381. English popular preacher, ideologist of the peasant and ple-bian heresy of the Lollards; one of the leaders of the peasant insurrection of 1381.

From the early 1360’s on, Ball wandered throughout England, giving sermons denouncing the wealth and vices of the clergy and demanding abolition of the church tithe, confiscation of the ecclesiastical estates, and liquidation of the church hierarchy. Unlike John Wycliffe, the ideologist of the bourgeois heresy, Ball insisted on a transformation of society. He sought to prove that the privileges of the aristocracy were unjust and contrary to the will of god, and he demanded the abolition of serfdom, equalization of the estates, and also, to some extent, equalization of property. Arrested in 1381, he was freed by the rebelling peasants and took his place, together with Wat Tyler, at the head of the rebels. After their defeat he was executed.


Hilton, R. H., and H. Fagan. Vosstanie angliiskogo naroda v 1381 g. Moscow, 1952. (Translated from English.)
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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