Britain & Ireland

Women and social history can be overlooked themes in periods where records tended to focus on money, religion and Kings. While those latter themes are covered in this section so are features on individual women, their relationships with power and how they were able to influence politics and the people around them. Social history is also addressed through the stories of Hermits, soldiers, tax records and revolting peasantry with nobles. Read more

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  • Medieval 'Signs and Marvels'

    Article

    Medieval ‘Signs and Marvels': insights into medieval ideas about nature and the cosmic order.Many aspects of life in the Middle Ages puzzle the modern reader but some are stranger than others. What can possibly explain an event reported from Orford Castle, in Suffolk? This is an amazing tale and was...

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  • Smithfield's Bartholomew Fair

    Article

    On the north-western side of the City of London, directly in front of St Bartholomew's Hospital near the ancient church of St Bartholomew the Great, there once lay a ‘smooth field', now known as Smithfield. This open space of around ten acres had a long and turbulent history. In medieval...

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  • Podcast lecture: Mad or Bad? Was Henry VI a tyrant?

    Article

    Professor Anne Curry delivered her final Presidential lecture at the Historical Association Annual Conference 2011 in Manchester. Henry VI (1422-61) was England's youngest king, only nine months old when he succeeded his famous father. Traditionally he is seen as incompetent, pious and, latterly, insane, and thereby causing the Wars of...

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  • The Origins of Parliament

    Article

    He who would seek the origins of parliament cannot proceed without knowing that this is, and this has been, a matter much controverted. English politics have very often been conducted in terms of what has passed for history, not least because they have so frequently revolved around the rights and...

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  • King John

    Article

    In the opinion of Stubbs King John was totally, not even competently, bad... Stubbs was the predominant, but no the sole voice of his generation. J.R. Green was already claiming that John was ‘the ablest and most ruthless of the Angevins... In the rapidity and breadth of this political combination...

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  • Towards Reform in 1809

    Article

    Two hundred years ago it must have seemed to some as if the time for political and economic reform in Britain had arrived. A number of the necessary conditions appeared to be in place:recent examples from America and France showing how readily and rapidly established systems could be overturnedseveral instances...

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  • The Nation of the Scots and the Declaration of Arbroath

    Article

    This pamphlet seeks to chart the progress of the Scottish struggle for independence after 1291 by considering the changing nature of the Scottish resistance. The primary sources are exiguous when compared to those bearing upon the English attempt at subjugation, and the interpretation offered is at best tentative: that initially...

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  • The strange death of King Harold II: Propaganda and the problem of legitimacy in the aftermath of the Battle of Hastings

    Article

    How did King Harold II die at the Battle of Hastings? The question is simple enough and the answer is apparently well known. Harold was killed by an arrow which struck him in the eye. His death is depicted clearly on the Bayeux Tapestry in one of its most famous...

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  • The Great Revolt of 1381

    Article

    The Great Revolt of 1381 began in South-West Essex sometime between late May and 2 June: contemporary narratives and record sources differ irreconcilably about the dates. It all started with the arrival of a royal tax commissioner, John Bampton, at Brentwood inBarnstable Hundred. He came to inquire into the evasion...

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  • Podcasted Lecture: Why Medieval History Matters?

    Article

    Why Medieval History Matters, Professor Anne Curry, President of the HA ‘I don't mind there being some medievalists around for ornamental purposes, but there is no reason for the state to pay for them'. So, allegedly, said Charles Clarke when Education Secretary in 2003. In fact, medieval history has never...

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  • A medieval credit crunch

    Article

    The project: A three-year research project started in December 2007 with the aim of investigating the credit arrangements of a succession of English monarchs with a number of Italian merchant societies. The study, based at the ICMA Centre, University of Reading, is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)....

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  • Was Richard II Mad? An evening with Terry Jones

    Article

    On 19th June Terry Jones, 'Python', historian, broadcaster, actor, director and comedian called King Richard II a victim of spin at the annual Historical Association/English Association lecture at the Bishopsgate Institute. Here he sets out to rescue his reputation and lift the lid on the turbulent world of 14th century...

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  • The soldier in Later Medieval England

    Article

    Traditionally, the Middle Ages have been portrayed as the ‘Feudal Age', when men were given land in return for performance of unpaid military service. Whilst this may have formed the basis of the English military system in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, it was most certainly not the way armies...

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  • Kilpeck Church: a window on medieval 'mentalite'

    Article

    In the village of Kilpeck, about eight miles south-west of Hereford, may be found the small parish church of St Mary and St David, justifiably described by Pevsner as ‘one of the most perfect Norman village churches in England’ (Pevsner 1963, 201). Seemingly remote today, in the twelfth century the...

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  • Saint Robert and the Deer

    Article

    It is almost a commonplace that there is an affinity between a holy man and the creatures of the wild. The archetype is St. Francis of Assisi but the phenomenon was well marked both before and after his time. I would like to consider briefly an episode in the life...

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  • Thomas Parkinson the Hermit of Thirsk

    Article

    About the year 1430 the citizens of Thirsk decided that their ancient parish church of St. Mary was old-fashioned and unworthy of the developing town, so they decided to build a new one. As a result, over the next eighty years or so, they produced what Pevsner described as ‘without...

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  • Late Medieval Taxation Records

    Article

    There are more than 23,000 medieval taxation records from England and Wales in the Public Record Office alone. For many years the vast majority of them have lain undisturbed in their archive boxes, but recent work is showing the true value of some of these as historical sources and making...

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  • Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English People

    Article

    Much research has been devoted in recent years to Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People (EH), completed in 731 at the joint monastery of Monkwearmouth- Jarrow; but in one crucial respect little progress has been made: the editing of the text. The excellent edition published by Charles Plummer in...

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  • Myth and Reality: A Necessary Marriage at Twelfth Century Glastonbury

    Article

    It is the habitation of strangers and the domination of foreigners. There is today no Englishman who is either earl, bishop or abbot. The newcomers devour the riches and entrails of England, and there is no hope of the misery coming to an end…the fatal day for England, the mournful...

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  • The Vikings in Britain

    Article

    Professor Henry Loyn provides an update on recent studies of the Viking Age. Interest in the activities of the Scandinavian people in Britain during the Viking Age, c 800-1100 A.D., has been strong in the last half-century or so, and it is good to pause and assess contributions to the...

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