In 1381 – (636 years ago) — John Ball, an itinerant English priest, was executed for helping provoke a peasant’s revolt against high taxes levied by the state to finance its endless warfare. As England struggled to recover from the plague years of the Black Death, Ball had traveled from town to town, using Bible passages to preach radical ideas of social equality. He achieved great popularity by voicing the grievances of the impoverished peasants in vernacular terms they could understand. After the Catholic Church, which owned a third of the land in England, excommunicated Ball, he took his preaching outdoors, where he drew large crowds. By the time of his final arrest he had already been in and out of prison several times for giving sermons in which he urged his listeners to seize and kill members of the nobility and their lawyers as well as high-ranking members of the clergy, including the archbishop of Canterbury. On the day of Ball’s execution, the fifteen-year-old King Richard II was on hand to watch him first hanged, and then drawn and quartered. The four bloodsoaked quarters of Ball’s body were then sent to four different villages to be displayed in public as a warning to those who might consider heeding his call or following in his footsteps.
In 1927 – (90 years ago) — in Vienna, demonstrators taking part in a general strike against Austria’s right-wing government stormed the National Palace of Justice and set it on fire. The blaze followed several months of earlier protests led by opposition Social Democrats against the regime, which was backed by rich businessmen and Catholic clergy. Those demonstrations had sometimes flared into violence — including one incident in which three right-wing paramilitaries had killed a World War I veteran and an eight-year-old boy and were later acquitted after pleading self-defense. At the Palace of Justice, after demonstrators attacked firefighters and cut their hoses, and after Vienna’s mayor appealed for calm and was ignored, police chief Johann Schober issued army rifles to his officers and ordered them to open fire on the crowd. Eighty-nine labor protesters were killed, along with five police; and some six hundred protesters were seriously injured. Two years later, Schober would go on to become Austria’s chancellor.
Rotten History is written by Renaldo Migaldi