Alexis de Tocqueville

There was nothing remotely pleasant about a peasant’s existence

If we are to remember peasants, we need a definition. Here is an imperfect but workable one. A peasant is a person working on the land in return for a bare subsistence. Patrick Joyce’s peasants are smallholders making just enough to feed their families and pay the rent in a normal year. They are people without status, tied to the land even if they are legally free. They occupy the lowest place in society, people with no ambitions and no future, who come into the light of history only when they revolt against their condition, as they frequently do. Historically, there have been peasants who did not fit this mould.