The High Middle Ages

Dickson College, Semester 2, 2012

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5 | Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13 | Week 14 | Week 15 | Week 16 |
Class FilesResearch Essay Task

Document Test Notice
In-Class Essay Notice
Oral Presentation Task
Oral Presentation Schedule
Unit Outline
BSSS Policies & Procedures Manual

Oral PresentationOral Presentation Resource Page - Source notes and bibliography from The Year 1000 available here - see Tom for your username and password.

The High Middle Ages on Clio1066 and After
Stephen's Claim to the Throne
Pope Urban and the First Crusade
Peter the Hermit and the First Crusade
On the Alexiad of Anna Comnena
Eleanor of Aquitaine, a 'Foolish Woman'?
The Failure of the Second Crusade
The Reputation of Richard the Lionheart;
The Glorification of Richard I
The Career of Saladin
Saladin and the Horns of Hattin
The Children's Crusade?
Italy and the Crusades
The Reign of King John
The Rebellion of Simon de Montfort
The Limitations of Medieval Medicine
The plight of the Jews in a time of plague
Intellectual Activity in the High Middle Ages
Important DatesAugust 17 (Friday, Week 4): Oral presentations begin
September 17 (Monday, Week 9): In-Class Essay
September 20 (Thursday Week, 9): Parent-Teacher Evening
November 2 (Friday, Week 13): Document Test
November 16 (Friday, Week 15): Draft Essay Due
November 23 (Friday, Week 16): Essay Due

ResourcesInternet Medieval Sourcebook - Fordham University
Guide to Grammar & Writing
DC Library | DC Library History Page
Online Etymology Dictionary
Forvo: the pronunciation guide
The complete guide to Harvard Referencing
Textual references
Reference generator - Harvard system
Inserting quotes into essays
How to write a bibliography
See the PPT on annotated bibliographies
A Guide to Citing Sources in Classics
Bad King John and the Australian Constitution
Black Death Primary Sources
The Black Death, BBC Radio 4
Black Death, BBC History
Real Clear History

Tom's Contact DetailsOffice - Room N39
Email -
Phone - 62056481

Week 1 (23 - 27 July)


It's helpful for me to know what you know already and what you'd like to learn more about. Thus, we began with the 'formative assessment' sheet. Your answers will inform the design of the unit outline which I'll distribute next Monday. When you'd done that, we went through the PowerPoint and discussed what the Middle Ages are and what the High Middle Ages are. We also looked specifically, though briefly, at the Crusades, Magna Carta and the Black Death.


We read chapter 1, 'January' of The Year 1000 by Robert Lacey & Danny Danziger. As we read, we noted down points about the content, sources relied on and any questions we had (see above). Thanks to Don for acting as scribe. When we had read the chapter we discussed the main themes or topics raised in it. We listed these and then each person was allocated a topic they had to summarise. I asked you to complete these by the beginning of tomorrow's lesson.


Two people had created a summary for almost all the topics. You each looked at what the other person who had covered your topic had written and 'marked' it. You then fused the best of your two efforts and the results can be seen here: January 1000 . Having collectively created a summary of the chapter, next week we will move on to developing and answering a focus question.

Week 2 (30 July - 3 August)


Today I distributed the unit outline and the oral presentation task. We also worked out the oral presentation schedule and I gave you the chapter that you will be presenting on. The source notes and bibliography from The Year 1000 are available at our Oral Presentation Resource Page. You need a username and password to access this page - please get these from me.

February - Welcome to Engla-Lond
Aaron, Teig & Tessa
March - Heads for Food
Brodie & Sarah
April - Feasting
May - Wealth and Wool
June - Life in Town
July - The Hungry Gap
William & Liam
August - Remedies
Zeb & Stephen
September - Pagans and Pannage
Sam & Jordan
October - War Games
Eugene & Don
November - Females and the Price of Fondling
Lauren & Nicola
December - The End of Things, or a New Beginning?
Rhiannon & Tanner


- We began this lesson by editing the summary of 'January' from The Year 1000 that we created last week. I emphasised to you how important it is to verify your account against what Lacey & Danziger have written.
- We also discussed how to structure the summary most concisely and most effectively.
- After recess, we discussed what makes a good focus question: is interesting to you; can be answered with available information; can be answered in depth in the available time; allows you to demonstrate higher order thinking (analysis, explanation, evaluation). We brainstormed and discussed possible focus questions for 'January'.
- In terms of devising a focus question, we discussed how you can formulate a provisional focus question but you then need to see whether it can be answered with the information you can find. With that in mind, we read Comte, Everyday Life in the Middle Ages and discussed the kind of focus questions it might help answer.

1 - Finish reading the chapter assigned to you for your oral presentation.
2 - Locate and borrow all books in the library relevant to your topic.
3 - Formulate a focus question (or possible focus questions). Submit it to me on paper or by email.

Week 3 (6 - 10 August)

Monday: Year 12 AST trial. Class as per normal for Year 11s and A students.
This lesson was spent in the library, researching your oral presentations. Please speak to me or email me if you are having any difficulty.


- I have now replied to the progress reports you emailed me. Please read my feedback. I will also make some more general comments on Monday.
- We started with the progress reports we didn't have time for yesterday.
- You then broke off into pairs and practised your delivery and gave each other feedback.
- I also distributed the introduction to The Year 1000 which provides some helpful background on the Julius Work Calendar.

Week 4 (13 - 17 August)

This morning we watched As it Happened: 1000 AD. I reminded you that oral presentation drafts are due today. Please send me something asap in order to receive feedback.

Thursday: Moderation Day (no classes)
Friday: Oral presentations begin.

Aaron, Teig and Tessa presented on 'February' and focused on Alfred the Great, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the writers and characters of Anglo-Saxon literature.

Week 5 (20 - 24 August)

Monday: Oral presentations continue throughout this week.
Sarah and Brodie persented on 'March - Heads for food' and slavery in medieval England. Lydia spoke about 'April - Feasting' and the difference between upper and lower class diet.


Elly presented on 'May - Wealth and Wool'. Liam and William spoke on 'July - the Hungry Gap'. As a number of presenters weren't ready, we finished watching the As it Happened: 1000 AD documentary we had begun watching on Monday of last week.

Zeb presented on 'August - Remedies'. Jordan and Sam presented on 'September - Pagans & Pannage'. As we need to move on to the Crusades next week, I have made appointments outside of class time with people who have yet to present.

Week 6 (27 - 31 August)


Today we started our study of the First Crusade by reading Urban II's address at the Council of Clermont in November 1095, in which he called on the knights of Europe to take the cross. I provided some introductory context (see PowerPoint) and you wrote down answers to the following questions. 1) Why did Urban II call for a crusade? 2) How did Urban attempt to appeal to his audience at Clermont?



This morning we watched about 15 minutes from a documentary, The Big Picture: The Crusades, presented by Terry Jones. This introduced us to The People's Crusade, a spontaneous mass movement of peasants and lower knights who responded to Pope Urban's call. We then read pp. 68 & 69 of Elizabeth Hallam's Chronicles of the Crusades. It features two contemporary accounts of how, at the outset of their crusade, the pilgrims massacred local Jewish communities in places like Cologne and Worms. We discussed what these accounts and the events they describe tell us about the nature of the Crusades.

Week 7 (3 - 7 September)

We began today by rehearsing what we have learnt about the People's Crusade. This led us to the following question. How did Alexios act to ensure that the crusaders served his interests? After the disaster of the People's Crusade came the First Crusade proper, led by figures such as Godfrey of Bouillon, Raymond of Toulouse, Hugh of Vermandois (brother of the King of France) and Bohemond of Taranto. Alexios faced threats from without (the Seljuk Turks and others) and threats from within (possible challenges to Alexios' authority). The immediate threat was that these powerful Western armies would be turned against Alexios himself. Alexios' long-term concern regarded the status of any territory won from the Turks. To find out how Alexios ensured the crusaders would work for, rather than against, him, we read pp. 132 - 135 of The First Crusade (2011) by Peter Frankopan.

Thursday: Year 11 AST trial. Class as per normal for Year 12s and A students.
The goal of today's lesson is to understand the remarkable success of the First Crusade as it proceeded across Asia Minor. As per this timeline, the major battles were as follows.

May – June 1097: Siege of Nicacea
July 1097: Battle of Dorylaeum
Oct 1097 - May 1098: The Siege of Antioch
May - June 1098: Antioch besieged

With a partner or partners, you will be assigned a battle. Your task is to present an account of the battle to the class tomorrow. Your presentation should take the form of readings of excerpts from the primary sources, accompanied by explanation. As is often the case, the primary sources can be challenging. Use the First Crusade Wikipedia entry to aid your understanding. By the end of today's lesson, please email me a document with the excerpts you will be reading out in your presentation tomorrow.


Today the Year 12s, by presenting and explaining key excerpts from the sources, informed the Year 11s about what they found out yesterday. Brodie and Jordan talked us through the siege of Nicaea; Sarah and Zeb explained the Battle of Dorylaeum; Nicola and George introduced us to the siege of Antioch (to be continued on Monday).

Week 8 (10 - 14 September)

I'm away today. Could you please do the following.

Read the source material on 'The Siege of Antioch October 1097 - June 1098' and 'Antioch Besieged May – June 1098' from the handout we were looking at on Friday. Use the First Crusade Wikipedia entry to aid your understanding. Write a brief summary of what happened at Antioch which includes three quotes from the source material.

In-Class Essay Notice
This notice outlines what you need to do to prepare for the in-class essay on Friday. If you have any spare time this lesson, please devote it to revising the work we did in weeks 6 and 7.

This morning I advised you that the IN-CLASS ESSAY WILL BE POSTPONED UNTIL MONDAY. We have been on a tight schedule anyway, and my absence on Monday just compounded things.

This lesson we turned again to the Terry Jones-narrated documentary, The Crusades (Episode 2, 'Jerusalem'). There were three main stages of the journey we learnt about.
- Antioch: When we last met (Friday Week 7), George, Nicola & Eugene were explaining the Siege of Antioch to us but they didn't have time to finish. After watching the relevant section of the documentary, we turned back to the sources on Antioch in the handout I gave you and read and discussed them.
- Cannibalism at Ma'arra: Jones described accounts of acts of cannibalism committed at a place called Ma'arra. We read Guibert of Nogent's account of these incidents and discussed what this reveals about the nature of the Crusades.
- Conquest of Jerusalem: The documentary explained how the Crusaders built siege towers with which they attacked the fortifications of Jerusalem. They ultimately were able to break in at the northern wall of the city. Massacre ensued. We read a couple of accounts from the Crusader chronicles.

This morning, I explained how the First Crusade concluded. Jerusalem fell to the Crusaders on the 15th of July, 1099. Pope Urban II died on the 29th of July, 1099, almost certainly unaware that Jerusalem had been taken. Four crusader states were established in the Levant: the Kingdom of Jerusalem; the Principality of Antioch; the County of Edessa; the County of Tripoli. Godfrey of Bouillon was the first ruler of Jerusalem (he was known as the Advocate of the Holy Sepulchre). When he died only a year later, Baldwin became King of Jerusalem. Jerusalem was held by the Franks until it was conquered by Saladin in 1187. Some Frankish presence remained in the Levant until the 1290s, two centuries after Pope Urban's speech at Clermont.

Together, we made notes on the board under the following headings (the topics for the in-class essay): causes; motivations; Alexios; morality.

Week 9 (17 - 21 September)

Monday: In-Class Essay

Read The Reputation of Richard I, The Lionheart’ by Luke Williams and The Glorification of Richard I by Merredy Jackson.

Based on these sources, the sources they refer to and any sources you can find by yourself, write a biographical portrait of Richard (approximately one page in length).

If you wish, your biography can be presented under the following sub-headings.

1. Life prior to gaining power
2. Achievements as a leader
3. The end of his life
4. Character
5. Your evaluation

Each claim you make about Richard (eg. “he was a fine general”, “he was handsome”, “he had two heads”), should be supported either by a) describing an act of Richard’s and explaining how that exemplifies what you are saying about him, b) quoting a source that you believe is reliable and supports your view (with explanation of how the quote supports your view).

Please post your completed, polished version by the end of the double period.

Parent-Teacher Evening, September 20, Dickson College Hall
This morning we watched a documentary called Richard the Lionheart and Saladin. It gave you a chance to consolidate your understanding of Richard's life and gave a more in-depth view of the course of the Third Crusade: the Siege of Acre; the Battle of Arsuf; the defence of Jaffa; and Richard's ultimate decision to return home because he believed that even if he took Jerusalem he wouldn't be able to keep it (and he became aware that, back at home, John and Phillip were conspiring against him).

Week 10 (24 - 28 September)


1. Why did Richard the Lionheart decide against launching an assault on Jerusalem?

2. Richard failed to achieve the ultimate objective of the Third Crusade; the reconquest of Jerusalem. Should this detract from his reputation as a great warrior and military commander?

Itinerarium Peregrinorum et Gesta Regis Ricardi: Richard the Lionheart Makes Peace with Saladin, 1192

Richard of Devizes, p.55


Last lesson, we looked at Richard the Lionheart's decision not to assault Jerusalem and whether his failure to achieve his ultimate objective should detract from his reputation as a military commander. We began this lesson by looking at the following overview of the remainder of his reign (taken from here).

September 2 1192:
King Richard and Saladin finally concluded a truce by the terms of which Christians were permitted to visit Jerusalem without paying tribute, that they should have free access to the holy places.

King Richard on his return from the Holy Land was shipwrecked off the coast of the Adriatic

December 1192:
Travelling through Austria in disguise, he was captured by the duke of Austria, whom he had offended at the siege of Acre. The king regained his liberty only by paying a ransom equivalent to more than twice the annual revenues of England.

February 4, 1194:
The ransom was paid and Richard was finally released. During his absence, John had come close to seizing the throne but Richard forgave him, and even named him as his heir.

1194 - 1199:
Richard devotes much of his time and energy to fighting with Phillip over territories in France.

April 6, 1199:
King Richard the Lionheart died at Chalus, in Limousin and was buried at Fontevraud Abbey.

Having taken in this overview, we turned our attention to Richard's brother and successor, John. We noted that John is commonly portrayed as greedy, evil and/or incompetent in popular culture, particularly in the various versions of the Robin Hood tales. We investigated to what extent these portrayals reflect the historical record by reading: 'Why is King John the classic villain?', Tom Geoghegan, BBC News Magazine.

Below are six claims we identified in the article about King John and his reign. For the claim allocated to you, prepare an A4 handout. The quotes should either be evidence (eg. from contemporary sources like Roger of Wendover) or authorities (like the academics quoted in the article we looked at). Prepare to talk to the class about your claim on Friday morning. You should simply explain, in regard to your claim, what happened and what King John did.

1. John rebelled against Richard while Richard was away crusading. (Brodie, Sarah, Nicola, Rhiannon)

2. When John assumed the throne he inherited a kingdom that was in turmoil and deep financial trouble. John had important positive qualities. (Aaron & Teig)

3. John had an unpleasant personality: he was interfering, unheroic and petty. (Liam)

4. John lost significant territories in France. (Will, George)

5. John fought with the Pope and ultimately lost. (Elly, Jordan)

6. John antagonised the nobility with measures including excessive taxation. (Eugene & Don)


As a lot of people were away today, we didn't go ahead with our presentations. Please be ready with your hand-out on Monday of Week 11. Instead, we discussed the broad chronology of events leading to the issuing of Magna Carta (the Great Charter) in 1215. We also watched the documentary below which gives a broad overview of the history of England in the Thirteenth Century.

Teaching break: October 1 - October 12

Week 11 (15 - 19 October)


After discussion, we agreed to move the date of the document test from Friday of Week 12 (26/10) to Friday of Week 13 (2/11). This will give us a bit more time to understand Magna Carta and its significance.

I distributed hard copies of the Research Essay Task which has been up on Clio for a couple of weeks now.

This lesson, we digressed from the High Middle Ages and looked at an article by former Prime Minister, John Howard, criticising elements of the History Curriculum that is being introduced across the country: Bizarre history curriculum studies Kylie not capitalism, John Howard, The Australian September 28, 2012. The article we read was a shorter version of a speech given by Howard.

The curriculum is being implemented from Kinder to Year 10 now and will be introduced in Years 11 and 12 in 2014 or 2015. Howard is a conservative and a monarchist and his views on the national curriculum in part reflect his attachment to Australia's British heritage. Reading the article and discussing it gave us an opportunity to reflect on what you have learned in History in your school career, what's important about the past, and how the study of History relates to national identity. Our present focus on Magna Carta is an example of a focus on Australia's British heritage.


Why did the barons rebel against John in 1215? Today we tried to answer this question by thinking about John's reign as a whole. The notes below should be read in conjunction with the PowerPoint Presentation. The notes and the presentation rely heavily on McKechnie (1914), Magna Carta (2nd ed.), New York: Burt Franklin (an oldie but a goodie!).

1199 – 1206: The years in which John waged a losing war with the King of France
- Contest for the throne in 1199/1200: John vs Arthur (backed by Phillip)
- May 1200: Treaty of Le Goulet; Philip recognised John as the rightful heir to Richard in respect to his French possessions, John, in turn, accepted Philip's right as the legitimate feudal overlord of John's lands in France.
- John's policy earned him the disrespectful title of "John Softsword" from some English chroniclers
- August 1200: divorces Isabel of Gloucester, marries Isabella of Angouleme
- Isabella was already engaged to Hugh of Lusignan
- Hugh appealed to Phillip; Phillip summoned John; John refused; Phillip reassigned John’s French lands to Arthur, took Normandy for himself; war between Phillip and John broke out again
- 1202 to 1204: John loses war with Phillip and all his continental dominions except the Duchy of Aquitaine.

1206 – 1213: The quarrel with the Pope
- King John appointed John de Grey vs. Reginald secretly elected by the monks of the Cathedral
- Church immediately sought confirmation of Reginald from Rome
- John found out, put pressure on the monks and had de Grey elected in a second vote
- de Grey enthroned at Canterbury
- Pope Innocent III decreed neither rival candidate would be archbishop and nominated Stephen Langton instead
- When John refused to accept this, Innocent released the English people from allegiance to their king
- John took advantage of break with Church by confiscating property of clergy
- Consequently able to try and appease barons by releasing them from burdens of scutage
- Confiscation of the property of the clergy had a knock-on effect on peasants who consequently got less poor relief
- In January of 1213, by Innocent’s command, formal sentence of excommunication was passed on John.
- May, 1213: John backed down, accepted Stephen Langton, restored Church property, with compensation

1213 – 1216: The great struggle with the barons
- John had not reconciled himself to the loss of continental possessions
- Campaign in France required all the levies he could raise.
- John demanded his barons perform their feudal service but they refused
- Used John’s excommunication as an excuse
- After John was absolved in July 1213, barons claimed their tenure did not compel them to serve abroad
- August: John headed north with mercenaries to punish the disobedient barons
- Stephen Langton holds ecclesiastical meeting at St Paul’s and reminds those present that the Pope absolved John conditional on good government
- All present swore an oath to fight for those liberties guaranteed by Henry I in 1100, if necessary
- Stephen Langton, seeking negotiated settlement, argues John should not wage war on his subjects without a legal judgment against them
- threat of excommunication forced John to substitute legal process for violence
- Spring 1214: John goes abroad with mercenaries, allied with Emperor Otto
- 2nd July, 1214: John abandoned siege of Roches au Moine, leaving baggage to the enemy
- 27th July: King of France’s allies triumph over John at the Battle of Bouvines
- 18th September: John compelled to sign a five year truce with Phillip, abandoning all pretensions to his continental dominions
- In late May (when John was already on the continent) writs were issued for scutage at an unprecedented rate to be levied on all the king’s tenants except those personally with John in Poitou. Northern barons who had refused to serve in person, refused to pay.
- October 1214: John returned to England, the barons were seething
- November 21: Sensing that rebellion was in the air, King John attempted to win the Church over by giving them complete control over appointments.
- 6th January 1215: Barons present demands to John and make it apparent they are backed by force. John requests and is granted until Easter to determine his response.
- John attempted to win the Pope’s support by promising to go on Crusade
- April 27th (after Easter): barons handed over list of demands to King’s emissaries
- Barons chose as their commander a Robert Fitz-Walter
- Much depended on London given its wealth and centrality. John granted London a new charter, allowing it to annually elect its mayor.
- 12th May 1215: John ordered the sheriffs to seize the lands and possessions of the rebel barons
- 17th May 1215: London opened its gates to the rebels. Other towns followed London’s lead.
- 8th June 1215: John granted rebels safe conduct to meet him at Staines
- 15th June 1215: A five day conference began between the rebels and the King in a meadow, between Windsor and Staines, called Runnymede.

In the second half of the lesson, I asked you to imagine you were a baron in rebellion against John in 1215. You wrote a letter to your wife or son explaining why you object to John so strongly and the aims of your rebellion. Finally, we had a mini mock meeting of the barons where you each spoke for 10 seconds, announcing your demands.

Before finishing today, I asked you about which essay question you have chosen. Most people have selected one - good to see.


1. Read the Wikipedia entry on Roger of Wendover. Provide a brief summary, in your own words of who he was and how he produced his chronicle.
3. Read Wendover's Flowers of History, starting from page 276. We remain concerned with the question we asked yesterday: Why did the barons rebel against King John? Your task is to find any passages that shed light on this question. When you do, write down the quote and an accompanying explanation of how it helps us answer our question. Let the focus question guide what you read; skip irrelevant bits.

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
The rebellion against King John TomGreenwell TomGreenwell 6 849 Oct 18, 2012 by WilliamKnights WilliamKnights
Roger of Wendover TomGreenwell TomGreenwell 5 434 Oct 18, 2012 by DonMcCombGray DonMcCombGray
Richard the Lionheart TomGreenwell TomGreenwell 8 1553 Sep 19, 2012 by BrodieWorden2011 BrodieWorden2011

Week 12 (22 - 26 October)


On Friday, you scoured the major contemporary source, Roger of Wendover, for evidence concerning the barons' disillusionment with King John. Today, we looked at some of the excerpts picked out by you - plus some. As a class, we discussed the meaning of these excerpts. Then, individually, you had a go at analysing how they shed light on the the anti-John sentiment. We then discussed your ideas as a class. Please note that this material is very likely to end up in the document test on Friday of Week 13.


The Text of Magna Carta

Magna Carta was first issued on June 15, 1215 at the meadow of Runnymede, between Windsor and Staines. Magna Carta means 'The Great Charter'. It's also known as Magna Carta Libertatum (The Great Charter of Liberties). It was written in Latin because generally writing in the Middle Ages was in Latin - writing in English only really begins in earnest over a century later with figures like Chaucer. The Latin origins of many modern English words is largely attributable to Latin's dominance as a written language and a lingua franca long after the decline of the Roman Empire.

Magna Carta was reissued (in modified versions) in 1216, 1217 and 1225, during the reign of Henry III. It was reissued again in 1297 by Edward I. When it was reissued in 1217, sections concerning the 'liberties of the forest' - hunting rights essentially - were hived off into a separate smaller charter. So there was the smaller Forest Charter and then the Great Charter. Hence, from that time it was known as Magna Carta.

Today we began taking an in-depth look at the 1215 version of Magna Carta. First, you read the introductory note above. Secondly, I assigned you one clause or chapter and asked you to prepare to: read the clause to the class; explain its meaning; and explain its significance. I gave you some commentaries from McKechnie to help you do this. After morning tea, presentations began. The clauses we discussed and accompanying notes are set out below.

(Clauses marked (+) are still valid under the charter of 1225, but with a few minor amendments. Clauses marked (*) were omitted in all later reissues of the charter. In the charter itself the clauses are not numbered, and the text reads continuously. The translation sets out to convey the sense rather than the precise wording of the original Latin.)

+ (1) FIRST, THAT WE HAVE GRANTED TO GOD, and by this present charter have confirmed for us and our heirs in perpetuity, that the English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired. That we wish this so to be observed, appears from the fact that of our own free will, before the outbreak of the present dispute between us and our barons, we granted and confirmed by charter the freedom of the Church's elections - a right reckoned to be of the greatest necessity and importance to it - and caused this to be confirmed by Pope Innocent III. This freedom we shall observe ourselves, and desire to be observed in good faith by our heirs in perpetuity.
- “that the English Church shall be free”: This essentially means that the Church itself – and not the King – would appoint all high church officials, eg bishops, the Archbishop of Canterbury.
- Recall that John’s great dispute with the Church had originated in disagreement about who had the power to appoint the Archbishop of Canterbury (and his further rejection of the Pope’s compromise candidate, Stephen Langton). John, of course, had already given in on this issue but this clause can be seen as cementing John’s concession.
- On 21st November 1214, a charter had been released guaranteeing canonical election (the Church controlling its own appointments). John had done this in an attempt to win support as rebellion became more inevitable.
- “The use of the words ecclesia Anglicana may indicate, perhaps, that under the influence of Stephen Langton, English churchmen were beginning to regard themselves as members of a separate community, that looked for guidance to Canterbury rather than Rome.” (McKechnie 1914: 192)

* (12) No `scutage' or `aid' may be levied in our kingdom without its general consent, unless it is for the ransom of our person, to make our eldest son a knight, and (once) to marry our eldest daughter. For these purposes only a reasonable `aid' may be levied. `Aids' from the city of London are to be treated similarly.
- Scutage: the commuting of an obligation to provide military service for an equivalent cash payment (and the use of the revenue so obtained to maintain paid armies).
- Aid: Besides military service, feudal custom allowed the king to make certain other exactions from his barons. In times of emergency, and on such special occasions as the marriage of his eldest daughter, he could demand from them a financial levy known as an `aid' (auxilium).
- This clause limits the King to imposing aids on the three specified occasions OR beyond those cases, when it has been affirmed by general consent of the kingdom. See clause 14 as to how this consent was to be obtained.
- The rule that scutage could only be imposed with general consent of the kingdom was new and was omitted when Magna Carta was reissued the next year.
- The occasions when the King can impose an aid without common consent are specified precisely. However, the appropriate level that aids should be levied at is not – that it should be ‘reasonable’ leaves a lot of room for dispute.
- “It came indeed to be interpreted in a broad general sense by enthusiasts who, with the fully-developed British Constitution before them, found in it the modern doctrine that the Crown can impose no financial burden without consent of Parliament.” (McKechnie 1914: 232)

+ (13) The city of London shall enjoy all its ancient liberties and free customs, both by land and by water. We also will and grant that all other cities, boroughs, towns, and ports shall enjoy all their liberties and free customs.
- A fundamental liberty was the capacity of London to elect its own mayor.
- Another important right was for the city to appoint those officials, known as sheriffs, who acted as tax collectors (as opposed to royal bailiffs doing this).
- Crucially, London had sided with the rebel barons. This clause can in part be seen as London’s reward.

* (14) To obtain the general consent of the realm for the assessment of an `aid' - except in the three cases specified above - or a `scutage', we will cause the archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, and greater barons to be summoned individually by letter. To those who hold lands directly of us we will cause a general summons to be issued, through the sheriffs and other officials, to come together on a fixed day (of which at least forty days notice shall be given) and at a fixed place. In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated. When a summons has been issued, the business appointed for the day shall go forward in accordance with the resolution of those present, even if not all those who were summoned have appeared.
- Clause 14 can be understood as specifying the mechanism by which Clause 12 (the common consent of the realm for extraordinary aids) would be achieved.
- Note those figures who will be summoned to an assembly: archbishops, bishops, abbots, earls, greater barons. It was the aristocracy whose consent would be obtained, not the common people’s (popular democracy, where a large portion of the population have a say in government, is still six centuries away).
- “of which at least forty days notice shall be given”… “In all letters of summons, the cause of the summons will be stated.” The barons were attempting to ensure with these specifications that the King couldn’t rig the process in one way or another.

(33) All fish-weirs shall be removed from the Thames, the Medway, and throughout the whole of England, except on the sea coast.
- The purpose of this clause was to remove all obstacles likely to interfere with navigation.
- Roads were poor, water-ways were the avenues of commerce. When water-ways were blocked, townsmen and traders suffered losses and all parts of the economy were inconvenienced.
- This clause reminds us that, while Magna Carta contains noble principles of enduring significance, it was produced in a specific time and place with immediate interests and objectives in mind.
- Aaron asked a good question about how and why this provision arose out of the conflict between the King and the barons. The short answer is that it didn’t; this clause is really a confirmation of already established practice. Mckechnie (1914: 345) states: “So far as the Thames and Medway were concerned, this provision contained nothing new. To the Londoners, indeed, the keeping open of their river for trade was a matter of vital importance. The right to destroy kydelli [fish-weirs] had been purchased from Richard I for 1500 marks, and a further sum had been paid to John to have this confirmed.”


(16) No man shall be forced to perform more service for a knight's `fee', or other free holding of land, than is due from it.
- Knights fee: In feudal society, the king's barons held their lands `in fee' (feudum) from the king, for an oath to him of loyalty and obedience, and with the obligation to provide him with a fixed number of knights whenever these were required for military service. Barons provided the knights by dividing their estates into smaller parcels described as `knights' fees', which they distributed to tenants able to serve as knights.
- Everybody agreed on the basic arrangement – land in exchange for military service – but there was much room for dispute about how much service was actually due in each particular case. This clause was intended to address this issue, to define and limit the knight’s obligations.
- “One grievance may have been specially in their minds. They had frequently objected to serve abroad, particularly during John’s campaigns in Poitou.” (McKechnie 1914: 260). Remember that the immediate cause of the crisis had been the refusal, particularly of the northern barons, to serve with John in 1214 in his campaign to recapture those territories in modern-day France that had previously been his.
- The clause does little to specify precisely what was owed, by whom, and when. Disputes continued.

(17) Ordinary lawsuits shall not follow the royal court around, but shall be held in a fixed place.
- At the time, all departments of government, legal and administrative, were centred in the King’s household.
- “The entire machinery of royal justice followed Henry II, as he passed, sometimes on the impulse of the moment, from one of his favourite hunting seats to another.” (McKechnie 1914: 262).
- For those seeking justice, this meant intolerable delay, expense and annoyance.
- Richard of Anesty journeyed for five years through most parts of England, Normandy, Aquitaine and Anjou, following the King. He eventually had his case heard and was successful but had accumulated a ruinous debt in the meantime.
- Common pleas – those involving disputes between one subject and another, but not concerning the King – were to be held in a fixed spot.
- Although it wasn’t named in Magna Carta, Westminster was probably intended as the location of the permanent court. It was the location in London of the various departments of government - legal and administrative - that made it England’s capital.

(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a husbandman the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.
- Three stages of justice pre-existed Magna Carta.
- 1. The bloodfeud (the family of the victim took physical revenge)
- 2. Fixed money-payments (money was accepted by the aggrieved party instead of physical retribution; the wrong-doer might have to make payment to the victim’s family, the victim’s lord, the lord of the territory on whose land the crime had been committed, , the church and the King as lord paramount)
3. Amercements – As a reaction to the impracticality of fixed money-payments, the Crown would instead offer protection to the wrong-doer if the wrong-doer placed his ‘life and limb’ at the mercy of the King.
- Historically, the King had applied amercements according to a set of conventions or customs. The amount a wrong-doer would have to pay would be defined by the severity of the crime and their ability to pay.
- Technically, however, amercement allowed the King to charge whatever fine he liked and so was very open to abuse.
- This was a big issue because few people would go a whole lifetime without being subject to an amercement.
- This clause insists that payments be proportionate.
- Moreover, payments to the Kings shouldn’t deprive a person of their livelihood.
- The payable amount should be assessed by a person’s peers – something of a precursor of trial by jury.

+ (39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
- The essential significance of Magna Carta is its role in establishing the principle that the king is under, or subject to, the law. The king too must obey the laws that govern his kingdom. In other words, Magna Carta helped establish the rule of law (in place of the rule of simple brute force). Clause 39 is perhaps the best and most important example of how Magna Carta constrained the arbitrary power of the King.
- “It has been usual to read it as a guarantee of trial by jury to all Englishmen; as absolutely prohibiting arbitrary commitment; and as solemnly undertaking to dispense to all and sundry an equal justice, full, free, and speedy.” (McKechnie 1914: 376)
- John had proceeded, in various instances, by force of arms against parties as though assured of their guilt. Recall the dispute that John had with many of his barons in 1213. He believed the barons were obliged to provide him military service and/or scutage for his invasion of France. The barons rejected John and claimed that the terms of their feudal relationship with John did not oblige them to serve with him overseas. Stephen Langton, seeking a negotiated settlement, insisted that John should not wage war on his subjects without a legal judgment against them. The balance of forces obliged John to accept this path. So, the first point of Clause 39 was to establish that punishments and penalties were applied after a legal process had been conducted and a legal judgment made.
- Every judgment must be delivered by the accused man’s equals. This reinstated a custom that John had flouted.
- No freeman could be punished except in accordance with the law of the land.

(54) No one shall be arrested or imprisoned on the appeal of a woman for the death of any person except her husband.
- A woman would not have the right to institute legal proceedings other than in the case of the murder of her husband.
- This clause is a stark illustration of the patriarchal nature of Medieval England; women were fundamentally subordinate to their male relatives.
- McKechnie (1914: 451) suggests that barons were concerned by the “unfair advantage enjoyed by women appellants” who would not fight in the subsequent duel themselves but appointted a ‘champion’ to duel in their stead.
- This clause is, again, a reminder of how this document is a product of a specific time and place.

* (61) SINCE WE HAVE GRANTED ALL THESE THINGS for God, for the better ordering of our kingdom, and to allay the discord that has arisen between us and our barons, and since we desire that they shall be enjoyed in their entirety, with lasting strength, for ever, we give and grant to the barons the following security:
The barons shall elect twenty-five of their number to keep, and cause to be observed with all their might, the peace and liberties granted and confirmed to them by this charter.
If we, our chief justice, our officials, or any of our servants offend in any respect against any man, or transgress any of the articles of the peace or of this security, and the offence is made known to four of the said twenty-five barons, they shall come to us - or in our absence from the kingdom to the chief justice - to declare it and claim immediate redress. If we, or in our absence abroad the chiefjustice, make no redress within forty days, reckoning from the day on which the offence was declared to us or to him, the four barons shall refer the matter to the rest of the twenty-five barons, who may distrain upon and assail us in every way possible, with the support of the whole community of the land, by seizing our castles, lands, possessions, or anything else saving only our own person and those of the queen and our children, until they have secured such redress as they have determined upon. Having secured the redress, they may then resume their normal obedience to us.
Any man who so desires may take an oath to obey the commands of the twenty-five barons for the achievement of these ends, and to join with them in assailing us to the utmost of his power. We give public and free permission to take this oath to any man who so desires, and at no time will we prohibit any man from taking it. Indeed, we will compel any of our subjects who are unwilling to take it to swear it at our command.
If-one of the twenty-five barons dies or leaves the country, or is prevented in any other way from discharging his duties, the rest of them shall choose another baron in his place, at their discretion, who shall be duly sworn in as they were.
In the event of disagreement among the twenty-five barons on any matter referred to them for decision, the verdict of the majority present shall have the same validity as a unanimous verdict of the whole twenty-five, whether these were all present or some of those summoned were unwilling or unable to appear.
The twenty-five barons shall swear to obey all the above articles faithfully, and shall cause them to be obeyed by others to the best of their power.
We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.
- Clause 61 sets out what shall occur if any of Clauses 1 – 60 are breached by John.
- A wronged party was to state his case to four of twenty-five barons, elected for the purpose.
- The barons would in turn raise the grievance with the King.
- If John refused to redress the grievance or delayed responding for over forty days, compulsion might be used.
- “The procedure devised for enforcing the Charter was crude: John conferred upon twenty-five of his enemies a legal right to organize rebellion, whenever in their opinion he had broken any one of the provisions of Magna Carta. Violence might be legally used against him, until he redressed their alleged grievances ‘to their own satisfaction’.” (McKechnie 1914: 468)
- Note that this clause was omitted from all later reissues of the charter. It’s possible to imagine that, had it been kept in place, it would have fatally undermined monarchical rule.

Week 13 (29 October - 2 November)


These are the notes we made on Magna Carta last Thursday and Friday (plus a few extra points I've added). You browsed these before answering the two following questions.

1. How can Magna Carta be seen as a product of the conflicts of John's reign? Refer to specific clauses in your answer.

2. Why is Magna Carta seen as such a significant document, even today? Refer to specific clauses in your answer.

I distributed the document test notice and emphasised that the test will include questions on the work we did on Richard I in weeks 9 and 10 as well as the reign of King John and Magna Carta.

Unfortunately we didn't get a chance to look at this today but I encourage you to watch it. The 10 - 30 minute marks are the most relevant to what we are studying.

Monarchy (USA Version), presented by David Starkey: Episode 2 Medieval Monarchs


Before recess, we rehearsed the narrative we have followed from Richard the Lionheart (reigned 1189 - 1199) to Magna Carta (1215). See the notes from Thursday of Week 11. After recess, you copied down these notes on The First Barons' War (1215 - 1217). This won't be important in the document test tomorrow but rounded off our study of Magna Carta.

- The First Barons' War was fought from 1215 until 1217.
- A civil war caused by the failure of King John to honour the terms of the Magna Carta.
- Some may say Magna Carta was not voluntarily agreed upon by John! John got the Pope to annul the Charter on the grounds he had only agreed to it under duress (ie. he'd been forced into it).
- The Barons, led by Robert Fitzwalter, offered the throne to Louis, son of Philip II Augustus of France, and future King Louis VIII of France.
- King John campaigned successfully in the Midlands and the North but lost control of the south east.
- Roger of Wendover tells us that, when John and his men were traversing The Wash, the king's belongings, including the Crown Jewels, were lost as he crossed one of the tidal estuaries.
- In King's Lynn, John contracted dysentery, which would ultimately prove fatal.
- On 18 October 1216, John died at Newark Castle, Nottinghamshire. Numerous – probably fictitious – accounts circulated soon after his death that he had been killed by poisoned ale, poisoned plums or a "surfeit of peaches".
- John's son Henry III became king in 1216 when he was nine years old.
- As Henry was too young to rule in his own right, William Marshall - one of the rebel barons at Runnymede - acted as his regent.
- With John’s death the rebels lost much of their support, as the supporters of the nine year old Henry III gained ground.
- In 1216, Magna Carta was reissued: to appeal to those barons who were still on Prince Louis' side; to make it workable and acceptable from the royal perspective.
- The 1216 version was reduced from 61 to 41 chapters. Radical elements - like chapter 61, the 'enforcement clause' - were removed.
- Prince Louis/ the barons were defeated at Lincoln
- The French supply ships were captured
- Louis and the barons were forced to accept the treaty of Kingston-upon-Thames (12 September 1217)
- The rebels were granted an amnesty, and Louis agreed not to support any future rebellion.
- Magna Carta was reissued in 1217 to confirm that the commitment to it had not just been a product of the war.
- Magna Carta was reissued in 1225 when Henry III came of age and was able to ratify it for himself.

Friday: Document Test

Week 14 (5 - 9 November)


'The Black Death', narrated by Denis Lawson, produced and directed by Peter Nicholson, Granada Television, 2009


Black Death Primary Sources
The Black Death, BBC Radio 4
Black Death, BBC History
The plight of the Jews in a time of plague

The Black Death Research Project: What intrigues you most about the Black Death (1348 – 1350)? What would you like to find out more about?
- Devise a research question. Think about the issues raised in the documentary we watched in class. Explore whatever makes you curious.
- Today, you will have time to investigate the question you have formulated.
- By the end of the lesson, you should give me an A4 page of notes, quotes and references that answer your question. Either print out a hard copy or email .
- Tomorrow morning, you will be required to explain your notes to the class.
- As much as possible, your answer should cite primary or contemporary sources or expert sources.
- Use Wikipedia after looking at books and contemporary sources if you wish but don’t base notes or quotes on it – as much as possible go to the sources cited in it.
- If you can’t find information, be persistent – think about all the research avenues we have discussed in relation to your research assessment tasks.
- If a) you really can’t find information or b) you feel you have answered your question: formulate another question and work on that.


This morning we heard from: Don on what really caused the Black Death; Nicola on Petrarch's response; Elly on the plague doctors; Jordan on causes of the pogroms against the Jews; and Will on the consequences of the Black Death. If you haven't submitted your work from Thursday's lesson, please do so as soon as possible.

Week 15 (12 - 16 November)

Couple Remain Hospitalized With Bubonic Plague, By Cecilia M. Vega and Tina Kelley, New York Times, November 9, 2002
Aberth, John (2011), Plagues in World History, Rowan & Littlefield; Plymouth

From the Online Etymology Dictionary:
pandemic (adj.) - 1660s, from L.L. pandemus, from Gk. pandemos "pertaining to all people; public, common," from pan- "all" (see pan-) + demos "people" (see demotic). Modeled on epidemic. The noun is first recorded 1853, from the adjective.
pan - prefix meaning "all, every, whole, all-inclusive," from Gk. pan-


Sara Morgans, who teaches biology, came in and extended our understanding of the plague. She addressed some of the outstanding questions we had from Monday: how does plague affect rats? How do plagues end? Why do plagues recur? Why were places like Milan relatively immune from the effects of the plague? Notably, the answer to this last question indicated that in Milan and Venice people, while not possessing a modern scientific understanding, did take effective action to minimise the spread of the disease.

Having addressed what the plague is and how it was understood in the fourteenth century, we turned our attention to how people psychologically coped with so much death and social and economic upheaval. We considered three responses: licentiousness; anti-Semitism; and self-flagellation.

Activity: Coping with the Black Death

- Take one of the three reactions to the Black Death: licentiousness or anti-Semitism or self-flagellation.
- Read the corresponding source material in the handout.
- Write a psychological explanation of the behaviour concerned.
- Start by simply describing the behaviour (quoting from the source to support your description).
- Then identify the motives and reasons for the reaction that are made explicit in the source.
- Finally, reflect on what appears to have happened. Can you discern any fears, desires or motives that are not made explicit in the source but nevertheless may be revealed in it?

Jewish History Sourcebook: The Black Death and the Jews 1348-1349 CE
The Flagellants Attempt to Repel the Black Death, 1349
Catholic Encyclopedia 'Flagellants'

Friday: Essay draft due

Today, we continued our focus on social reactions to the Black Death, specifically one of the essay questions: 'How and why were the Jews made scapegoats for the Black Death?'. I started by observing that massacres of Jews at the time of the Black Death need to be understood in the context of a long history of Christian anti-Semitism. I read from Matthew Chapter 27 in which responsibility for Jesus' crucifixion is directed away from the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and the Jewish crowd declares "His blood is on us and on our children!" For other broad factors behind anti-Semitism and then a closer look at the immediate causes of anti-Jewish pogroms in 1348 - 50, see the PowerPoint.

Essay drafts are due. Email it to me - - if you like. You will have time in Monday's lesson to work on your essay. Please come prepared.

Week 16 (19 - 23 November)


The complete guide to Harvard Referencing
This lesson you had time to work on your essay. The style and referencing guides above should help you format your quotes, in-text references and bibliography correctly. If you want to ask questions or submit a draft, email - - or drop in to my office (N39). Here are some examples of good annotated bibliographies on Clio...

An Assessment of the Cuban Revolution
Anwar Sadat and the Yom Kippur War
The Consequences of the Yom Kippur War (good but annotations don't address reliability sufficiently)

Wednesday: Cross-line testing begins.

Friday: Essay due.