As a kid growing up I had always been taught in school that a peasant was a poor farmer in the French and English Countryside. They were described as being poor or not having many worldly goods and also it was said they were looked down on by the "higher class" or people with more money.
As an adult I can see where this thinking is very flawed. When you really think about wealth and riches in life it's about so much more than money. A person could have all the money in the world and have a disease with no cure and to me that would be the height of being poor.
I think the peasants of old were probably so rich in their happiness and contentment and I don't think they were what we call lower class, it's just they didn't have any need for all the things the "higher class" people needed to make them feel happy and content. I think the history books have it wrong.
We have a lot of Amish people living where I live and they have shunned all the modern conveniences like electricity, TV's, telephones and the like. They work the land, grow what they eat, sheer the sheep and spin their thread, make their clothes, they are a community of people who support and love one another. If a house or barn burns down or something happens to one of their homes they come together as a community to build a house or a barn in a day with no one getting paid, they just do it as a group. To me they seem to be very happy and content but some look down on them as being "simple" or "dumb" or "poor" but really nothing could be further from the truth. They are not burdened with all the day to day stresses most of us encounter in our lives but live a content, happy, and peaceful life.
So I think you are right the peasants of old were probably the rich ones!