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Kingship, Rule and Mythmaking: England, 1065-1307

Tutor: Danielle Park (tutor for 2018-19) / Sethina Watson

Module type: Histories and Contexts

Module Code: HIS00014I

The death of Edward the Confessor launched one of the most contested periods of English rule. This module will take us chronologically from the Confessor’s death in 1065 to the death of his namesake, Edward I, encompassing years that produced some of England’s most famous kings and violent crises. We cover the Norman Conquest and its aftermath, the "anarchy" of King Stephen, murder of Thomas Becket, Magna Carta, rebellion of Simon de Montfort, and the formidable reign of Edward I. We explore the problems of power and the art of rule in medieval England, its castles, alliances, and ruthless ministers, as well as the rebellions that challenged that rule. We also look at the changing stage of English kingship (and queenship) during this period, from the Anglo-Norman realm, to the Angevin Empire and Britain, to think about how territory shaped royal ambition and the means by which kingship was justified.

This period fashioned enduring institutions of English government -- the exchequer, parliament, common law, and Westminster -- and explore how they arose and were used. But it was also a period that produced some of our most popular historical legends. Many are based on actual people or happenings – the Battle of Hastings, "that Troublesome Priest", Richard the Lionheart, "Bad" King John and even King Arthur. We will explore how these relate to our historical sources and as well as to the politics of power in the middle ages.

The lecture programme might include the following:-

Williams I and II (1065-1100)

1. 1066: the Battle of Hastings and its build-up
2. The Norman Conquest: Sources and Problems
3. The Normanization of England? Lordship, Revolt and Ethnicity
4. Aftermath: The England of the Conquerors

Henry I and Stephen (1100-1154)

5. The Cross-channel Realm
6. Succession and Claim
7. The ‘anarchy’: Stephen and Matilda
8. The barons and their priorities

The Angevins (1154-1215)

9. Henry II: The Church and the Law
10. Court Culture
11. Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine
12. King John, Empire and the scrabble for money

King, Parliament and England:

13. The reign of Henry III
14. Baronial rebellion (Simon de Montfort)
15. Edward I: Law and Order
16. War and crisis: 1290-1307
17. Revision: the rule of England


Seminar discussions will likely deal with the following :-

2. The Norman Conquest
3. 1066-1100: Was this really Domesday?
4. Domination and the art of Rule: the Conqueror’s sons
5. Anarchy & Nation: Stephen (and Matildas)
6. John of Salisbury and the Troublesome Priest
7. Magna Carta
8. The Montfortian Rebellion
9. Criticism & Controversy: Who rules England?


For more information, please visit the module catalogue.