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Kingship, Rule and Crisis in Medieval England - HIS00143I

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  • Department: History
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Sethina Watson
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2024-25

Module summary

The death of Edward the Confessor in 1066 inaugurated one of the most contentious, and fertile, periods of English rule. With no settled mechanism for succession, the throne was often gained through a shifting cocktail of force, blood, personality, and political truce. It is perhaps no surprise that these centuries produced some of England’s most famous kings and queens, and some of its most violent crises, from the Norman Conquest and the ‘Anarchy’ of civil war between Stephen and Matilda, to the murder of Thomas Becket, and the baronial rebellions that produced Magna Carta and the Montfortian rebellion of the 1260s, which saw the king overthrown and imprisoned. This module will explore what brought about these clashes and the new political landscapes that were formed in their wake.

The crises and rebellions between 1066 and 1266 were contests about rule itself, posing questions of assimilation, identity, order and right. Through them we explore the art of medieval government, the tools of domination (and rebellion), the changing territory of kingship and queenship, as well as the family dramas that shaped kingdoms. This formative period fashioned some of the most enduring institutions of English government: the Crown, exchequer, parliament, common law, and Westminster, and we will see how they arose and changed the nature of power, and warfare. Along the way, we look at the Bayeux Tapestry, Domesday Book, and Magna Carta, as well as contemporary songs, chronicles and biography. All sources are provided in English translation.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Semester 2 2024-25

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with the opportunity to study particular historical topics in depth
  • To develop students’ ability to examine a topic from a range of perspectives and to strengthen their ability to work critically and reflectively with secondary and primary material

Module learning outcomes

Students who complete this module successfully will:

  • Have acquired a deep knowledge of the specific topic studied, including how to dominate territory and keep barons in check
  • Have developed their ability to use and synthesise a range of primary and secondary sources
  • Be able to evaluate the arguments that historians have made about the topic studied
  • Have developed their ability to study independently through seminar-based teaching

Module content

Students will attend a 1-hour briefing in week 1. Students will then attend a 1-hour plenary/lecture and a 2-hour seminar in weeks 2-4, 6-8 and 10-11 of semester 1. Weeks 5 & 9 are Reading and Writing Weeks (RAW) during which there are no seminars. Students prepare for and participate in eight 1-hour plenaries/lectures and eight 2-hour seminars in all.

Seminar topics are subject to variation, but are likely to include the following:

  1. The Norman Conquest
  2. 1066-1100: Was this really Domesday?
  3. Domination and the Art of Rule: the Conqueror’s sons
  4. Anarchy and Nation: Stephen (and Matildas)
  5. Angevins I: Henry II and the Becket Crisis
  6. Angevins II: Richard, John and magna carta
  7. Of Cults and Kings (and barons)
  8. Rebellion and the Prince: Simon de Montfort and Baronial Revolt


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

For formative assessment, students will complete a referenced 1200 to 1500-word essay relating to the themes and issues of the module. This will be submitted in either the Week 5 or Week 9 RAW week (on the day of the weekly seminar).

For summative assessment, students will complete an Assessed Essay (2000 words, footnoted). This will comprise 100% of the overall module mark.

Summative assessments will be due in the assessment period.


Task Length % of module mark
Assessed Essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

Following their formative assessment task, students will typically receive written feedback that will include comments and a mark within 10 working days of submission.

Work will be returned to students in their seminars and may be supplemented by the tutor giving some oral feedback to the whole group. All students are encouraged, if they wish, to discuss the feedback on their formative work during their tutor’s student hours. For more information, see the Statement on Feedback.

For the summative assessment task, students will receive their provisional mark and written feedback within 25 working days of the submission deadline. The tutor will then be available during student hours for follow-up guidance if required. For more information, see the Statement of Assessment.

Indicative reading

For reading, please refer to the module VLE site. Before the course starts, we encourage you to look at the following items of preliminary reading:

  • Brian Golding, Conquest and Colonisation: The Normans in Britain, 1066-1100 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2013).
  • Donald Matthew, Britain and the Continent, 1000-1300: The Impact of the Norman Conquest (London: Hodder Arnold, 2005).
  • Sophie The´re`se Ambler, The Song of Simon de Montfort : England's First revolutionary and the Death of Chivalry (London: Picador 2019).
  • Robert Bartlett, Blood Royal: Dynastic Politics in Medieval Europe (Cambridge: University Press, 2020).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.