Word of the Day: jacquerie
jacquerie (noun) zhah-kuh-REE
: (often capitalized Jacquerie) a peasants’ revolt
“There were no bloodthirsty sansculottes preparing to erect guillotines; nor were farmers, however angry about government excise taxes and other matters—as Shays’s Rebellion suggested—ready to burn down the manorial estates of their feudal overlords in some version of an American jacquerie.” — Steve Fraser, Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace, 2008
“The thicker the masonry, the more likely the fortress would withstand the anticipated Jacquerie.” — Michael Knox Beran, National Review, 7 Sept. 2009
Did You Know?
The first jacquerie was an insurrection of peasants against the nobility in northeastern France in 1358, so-named from the nobles’ habit of referring contemptuously to any peasant as “Jacques,” or “Jacques Bonhomme” (in Frenchbonhomme means “fellow”). It took some time—150 years—for the name of the first jacquerie to become a generalized term for other revolts. The term is also occasionally used to refer to the peasant class, as when Madame Defarge in Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities tells her husband to “consider the faces of all the world that we know, consider the rage and discontent to which the Jacquerie addresses itself with more and more of certainty every hour.”
As I reflected upon what to write regarding the word Jacquerie, I struggled with applying the term to the world I live in today. Yes, I know. Jacquerie usually refers to the French peasant’s revolution in 1358, and a subsequent one in England a few years later. In the midst of the Hundred Years War, the Black Plague, and serf oppression by landholders, unrest and worry ran rampant as nobles waged their battles using ordinary people as pawns in their games. Eventually, they revolted.
I can’t help wonder if we in America, not to mention around the world, aren’t gearing up for our own revolution. The population of our country had our differences, problems, and issues to work out. What I see in the 21st century is unbelievable. The partisan lines are growing apart every day. America was never supposed to have a class system, yet our founding fathers must be spinning in their graves watching one develop unimpeded, stampeding out of control, worsening every day.
Are we heading for a new jacquerie? Science fiction writers of the past have touched upon this subject many times. I have believed since high school it would eventually happen, though I always thought it would happen centuries from now. I’m not so sure now. It could even happen within the next couple of decades.
Please share your comments. I’m sure we would all enjoy reading them.