Over the past few posts I may have given the impression that I am for Brexit. I am not. However, I not in favour of running down Britain which I feel has sometimes taken the over some of the Remainer approach to Brexit. Britain has many many faults, such as every country, but is a very rich and successful. It has a powerful military and a global spanning cultural reach. It will survive and no doubt thrive after Brexit I just feel that aligniating out largest market is not in the best long term interest of Britain. Neither is allowing the European Union go off in a Franco/Germany dominated direction either. However, that is so much water under the bridge and now I feel we just have to make the best of where we are whether that is with a withdrawal agreement or not.
Yesterday I received a book I have been wanting for sometime – The Poll Taxes of 1377, 1379 and 1381. Now for most people this is hardly on the top of their reading list but as this blog I believe has demonstrated time and again I not your normal ‘someone’. The book very much does what it says in the title and consolidates and reprints all the records for the three taxes from the late 14th century.
For me the most interesting one is the Poll Tax return for 1379. Here for the first time in a national register we get to see the people of England. In the area of my study, the coalfield of north west Leicestershire, we see the first miners appearing two John Coleman, William Collier and Roger Collier. Each had to pay 4d. However as interesting as this list is the one thing that is not recorded is perhaps the most significant of all. Some of the people listed had survived the first outbreak of the Black Death in the late 1340’s. They probably would have been young children who may well have seen their own family die in front of their them. By whatever means they had survived and were now recorded for posterity. Even the people recorded who were not alive when the Black Death hit for the first time would left lives scared by the memory of what had happened.
So the next time you might hear someone making exaggerated claims about the effects of Brexit then remember the people recorded in the 1379 poll tax return. They had seen what real horror looks like and might smile at how trivial Brexit is in comparison. This doesn’t mean that things aren’t going to be bumpy over the next 6 months or so or the Republic of Ireland is going to be truly screwed if things do wrong and we leave without a deal. Instead what it means is that things are not anything like as bad as John Coleman, William and Roger Collier had survived or their parents had told them about. We do need to take a chill pill every now and then when thinking about Brexit – and that includes me!