John Ball

Ball, John, d. 1381, English priest and social reformer. He was one of the instigators of the Peasant's Revolt of 1381 (see under Tyler, Wat). He was an itinerant for many years, acting independently of the influence of John Wyclif and advocating ecclesiastical poverty and social equality. Excommunicated in 1376, he was in prison at Maidstone when the rebels released him in 1381. After the dispersal of the rebels, Ball was captured at Coventry. He was taken to St. Albans, where he was hanged, drawn, and quartered. He is perhaps best remembered for giving currency to the couplet "When Adam delved and Eve span/Who was then the gentleman?" William Morris wrote one of his works on utopian socialism under the title The Dream of John Ball.

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