The principal focus of the rising was in East Anglia and the Home Counties, though echoes of discontent were to be found farther away. For example, the Prior of Worcester Cathedral excused himself in a letter of 5 July I 38 I from attendance at the Benedictine Chapter (the meeting of representatives of all the English Benedictine monasteries), due to be held in Northampton three days later. The reason given was that his free and unfree tenants with their supporters, on the pretext of certain manumissions (no doubt a reference to the king's promises at Mile End on I4June), were refusing the rent and services which constituted 'the greater part of his and his monastery's sustenance'. The prior might have expected this, for sporadic refusals of rents and services had been occurring since I378, leading to the prior's seizure in I380 of the goods and chattels of all the serfs on the estate. Similar conspiratorial movements were reported from the estate and the monastery of St Werburgh at Chester, also in July, again a belated echo of the south-eastern rising. And, as is well known, the heated social and political atmosphere, the demonstrable weaknesses of the rulers of the country, triggered off local conflict in various towns well away from the centre of the rising, such as York, \Vinchester, Beverley, Scarborough and Bridgwater. 1

The risings in the west and the north were, then, secondary

to the great rebellion in the south-east. Insofar as the explanation for the movement is to be found in the nature of local social and political relations, it is this area which we must examine. Apart from London itself, the main focus was in Essex, Kent, Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Suffolk with some spillover to the north and west. These counties were, of course, densely populated compared with other parts of the country. In 1377, the population density of most of the area south-east of a line from Gloucester to Scarborough was twice as great as that of the counties to the north-west of that line. Norfolk and Suffolk were particularly densely settled, and only Epping Forest and the Weald brought the overall population density of Essex and Kent below that of East Anglian counties. The area was also much affected by having at its heart the great city of London, by far the biggest urban centre in the country, comparable, with an intra-mural population of 35,000 to 4o,ooo, to some of the bigger cities of the continent. But what strikes one most is not the population density or the political and social importance of London, but the contradictory features of southeastern society, the coexistence of contrasting social structures, the persistence of the archaic side by side with the foreshadowings of modern social forms.