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Ruling Medieval England: From the Anglo-Saxons to Edward I – four online talks by Marc Morris

posted on 01/12/23


We still tend to associate the Middle Ages with mayhem. In popular parlance, ‘medieval’ remains a synonym for backwardness, and conjures up mental images of warfare, pestilence and disorder. The truth is that society in this period was far better regulated than most people realise, and nowhere more so than in England, one of the most precociously organised polities in Europe. By the end of the tenth century, the kingdom had already assumed its present dimensions, and acquired many of the fundamental institutions familiar from later centuries – shires, boroughs, and bishoprics.

At the apex of society sat its kings, who exercised greater power in this period than in any other. Some handled that responsibility well, whereas others acquitted themselves disastrously. This series covers England’s development from its earliest beginnings to the start of the 14th century. It explores how the several kingdoms of the Anglo-Saxon era were fused into a single realm, and the revolutionary impact of the Norman Conquest. For the later medieval period, two talks consider the reigns of King John and Edward I, contrasting the failure of the first with the success of the latter.

They take place every Tuesday from 30th January to 20th February at 4.30pm and, including Q&A, will probably last just under an hour. They are available for viewing for eight weeks after the last episode is streamed (16th April 2024).

Register for the webinar series for £55

The talks

1. The Anglo-Saxons (30th January 2024)

In the early fifth century, Britain was a ruined Roman province – a land of crumbling temples and abandoned villas. By the early 11th century, it was dominated by a newly forged kingdom called 'England' – a country of shires, sheriffs, bishops and boroughs. That transformation was caused by the Anglo-Saxons, who arrived as immigrants at the start of the period and quickly established themselves in positions of power. This talk explores their journey from warlords to kings, from paganism to Christianity, and from a galaxy of competing peoples to a single, unified nation.

2. The Norman Conquest (6th February 2024)

1066 is the most famous date in English history. Everyone remembers the story, depicted on the Bayeux Tapestry, of William the Conqueror's successful invasion, and the unfortunate King Harold being felled by an arrow in the eye. But the Norman Conquest was much more than simply a succession dispute. With a decade or so of William’s victory, the entire ruling class of Anglo-Saxon England had been swept clean away, and replaced with newcomers from northern France who had very different ideas about the way society should be regulated.

3. King John (13th February 2024)

King John is familiar to everyone as the villain from the tales of Robin Hood – greedy, cowardly, despicable and cruel. But who was the man behind the legend? Was he truly a monster, or a capable ruler cursed by ill luck? He governed England more harshly than any of his predecessors since William the Conqueror, extracting more wealth from the realm than at any point since 1066. But such ruthless exploitation came at a political cost, leading to John’s most famous but unintended legacy – Magna Carta.

4. Edward I (20th February 2024)

Edward I is not the most famous of English kings, yet arguably he had the greatest impact. He lived longer and travelled further than any other monarch of medieval England. In the course of his exceptional career, he defeated and killed his uncle, Simon de Montfort, went on crusade, and conquered Wales and Scotland. He also revolutionised the government of England, summoning the largest parliaments of the English Middle Ages. Notoriously, he expelled all of the Jews from his kingdom. This talk examines his extraordinary life and the lasting legacy of his reign.

The speaker

Marc Morris

Historian who specialises in the Middle Ages. He studied and taught at the universities of London and Oxford and is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society. He is the author of the Sunday Times bestseller The Anglo-Saxons: A History of the Beginnings of England (2021), as well as The Norman Conquest (2012) and biographies of Edward I and King John. In 2003 he presented the highly acclaimed TV series Castle and wrote its accompanying book. He regularly writes for history magazines and contributes to programmes on radio and television.

Register for the webinar series for £55

Frequently asked questions

What methods of payment do you accept?

An electronic invoice will be sent to your e-mail address 1–3 working days after you have completed our registration form. Payment can be made online using AMEX, Apple Pay, Google Pay, MasterCard or Visa.

How do I purchase the webinar series as a gift?

Please contact us specifying how many subscriptions you would like and who they are for (we require their full name and e-mail address). We will invoice you directly, and after we have received your payment we will release the webinar joining instructions to your friend(s) or family member(s).

Can I purchase a single episode?

No, unfortunately not. The series must be purchased in full.

How do I join the webinar?

An e-mail confirmation will be sent to you after you have paid for your subscription, which includes your unique link for joining the webinar. Reminder e-mails will be sent to you one day and one hour before each event. We recommend that you download the Zoom software in advance of the first webinar.

Can I watch the live broadcast(s) on more than one device?

Only one device can be connected to the live broadcast(s) at any one time. If you wish to purchase a second subscription, please contact us.

What happens if I am unable to attend the live broadcast(s)? 

A recording will be uploaded to a dedicated webpage approximately two hours after the live broadcast. For copyright reasons, these recordings cannot be made available indefinitely; access is granted for eight weeks after the final live broadcast of the series.

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