John Ball (d. 15 July 1381) was an English Lollard priest who took a prominent part in the Peasants' Revolt in 1381.
Little is known of his early years, but he lived probably at York and afterwards at Colchester. He gained considerable fame as a preacher by expounding the doctrines of John Wycliffe, but especially by his insistence on the principle of social equality. These utterances brought him into collision with the archbishop of Canterbury, and on three occasions he was committed to prison. He appears also to have been excommunicated, and in 1366 all persons were forbidden to hear him preach.
His opinions, however, were not moderated, nor his popularity diminished by these measures, and his words had a considerable effect in stirring up the rising which broke out in June 1381. Ball was then in prison at Maidstone; but he was quickly released by the Kentish rebels, to whom he preached at Blackheath which incuded the following:
- When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then the gentleman? From the beginning all men by nature were created alike, and our bondage or servitude came in by the unjust oppression of naughty men. For if God would have had any bondmen from the beginning, he would have appointed who should be bond, and who free. And therefore I exhort you to consider that now the time is come, appointed to us by God, in which ye may ( if ye will ) cast off the yoke of bondage, and recover liberty.Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (1977:11)
- 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica
- Webster's online Dictioary
- The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001
- The Columbia World of Quotations. 1996
- BBC: VOICES OF THE POWERLESS - READINGS FROM ORIGINAL SOURCES
- English Literature by William Joseph Long
- Other versions
- "When Adam dalf, and Eve span, / Who was thanne a gentilman?" from Thomas Walsingham's Historia Anglicana R B Dobson 'The Peasants revolt of 1381' Pitman, Bath, 1970, pp373-375
- "When Adam dolve, and Eve span, / Who was then the gentleman?" John Bartlett, comp. (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919. Page 871 from Hume: History of England, vol. i. chap. xvii. note 8.
- "When Adam dug and Eve span, / Who was then a noble man?" Literature of Richard II's Reign and the Peasants' Revolt. Edited by James M. Dean
- ⇧ BBC: VOICES OF THE POWERLESS - READINGS FROM ORIGINAL SOURCES
- R B Dobson 'The Peasants revolt of 1381' Pitman, Bath, 1970, pp373-375 quotes from Thomas Walsingham's Historia Anglicana: "When Adam dalf, and Eve span, who was thanne a gentilman? From the beginning all men were created equal by nature, and that servitude had been introduced by the unjust and evil oppression of men, against the will of God, who, if it had pleased Him to create serfs, surely in the beginning of the world would have appointed who should be a serf and who a lord" and Ball ended by recommending "uprooting the tares that are accustomed to destroy the grain; first killing the great lords of the realm, then slaying the lawyers, justices and jurors, and finally rooting out everyone whom they knew to be harmful to the community in future."
- ⇧ Project Gutenberg: Dream of John Ball, A: a king's lesson