Active Learning on

Wars of the Roses:
Newsletter 2

Penguin Monarchs Series: Richard III

The latest in this series of short books (c120pp) is Rosemary Horrox on Richard III: A Failed King? which is due out on September 24th (though I first saw it advertised two or three years ago so I’ve got my fingers crossed the publication date is now accurate).

While on Richard III - of the many books published about Richard III in recent years the one I’d recommend to teachers and students new to the topic is David Horspool’s Richard III: A Ruler and His Reputation which manages to balance interest and enthusiasm with objectivity.

For greater depth my preference is still Rosemary Horrox’s Richard III: A Study of Service though it was published as long ago as 1989. The most recent major biographical study is Michael Hicks’ Richard III: The Self-Made King published by Yale UP in 2019 in the Yale English Monarchs series, presumably replacing Charles Ross’s book in that series.

The Paston Letters

The HLF-funded project on the Paston family and its letters is well under way. You can keep up with its work via

One of the major strengths of this site is the availability of numerous letters – and the list on this page is getting longer all the time. See

What you’ll find here is more than just one version of a letter; for each letter there’s:

• The medieval text of the letter

• the medieval text with ‘hovering translations’ of some words and phrases into modern English

• the medieval text with modern words and phrases substituted in puzzling places

• a full modernised version of the letter

• the manuscript original (if in the British Library) – the link to this is at the bottom of the letter – click on the black tabs Original Version and Original Recto

This combination of versions would allow you to give students a real sense of what the originals look like and what they say.

To find the letters that relate to events you cover at A level use these pages which provide an outline of the wars with hyperlinks to associated letters:

Among the other items on this site which might be useful are:

A filmed talk by Rosemary Horrox – The Usefulness of the Pastons

The Virtual Pastons tab takes you to 3D models of some of the houses linked to the Pastons

And there’s a lot more too!

In case you are interested I wrote an introduction to the Pastons last year, covering the family, the letters and teaching possibilities, including at A level. You can find it HERE …

Historical Association website

The HA site can be hard to navigate but there’s a lot of useful material lurking there and some of it is open access so can be accessed even if you’re not a full member (though if you’re not a member – why not?!).

Teacher Fellowship Resources

Open access resources produced by teachers on the Fellowship course on Teaching the Later Middle Ages.
These include resources created specifically for A level teaching HERE …

Note: The HA is now advertising a new Teacher Fellowship on The People of 1381, beginning in January 2021 HERE …

Open Access Resources

The resources below vary as to whether they’re open access or only available to members. If you click on a resource that says it is free to registered users – this means it is open access but the HA requires a basic registration (which is free), giving name and email address. You then become a registered user and can access the resource by logging in with the email address you supplied on registration.

Filmed Talk

By Professor Steven Gunn on Henry VII and English Royal Authority

This is part of a series of talks by Steven Gunn and Susan Doran on aspects of Tudor history


The Wars of the Roses by Professor Michael Hicks

Henry VI – The Mad King? by Professor Anne Curry

Richard III – A Controversial King by Professor Michael Hicks

Henry VII – Legitimising his throne by Dr Sean Cunningham

Henry VII – Decreasing the power of the nobility by Dr Sean Cunningham

Article from The Historian

By Professor Carole Rawcliffe on The Insanity of Henry VI - available free for HA Secondary Education members

Teaching History Polychronicon feature

Professor John Watts on The Wars of the Roses

Historians in conversation

Historians discussing their favourite 15thC people in conversation with Dr Joanna Laynesmith – each film is about 25 minutes:

• Henry VI by Lauren Johnson

• Anthony Woodville, Earl Rivers by Danielle Burton

Films on 15thC armour and weapons by Dr Tobias Capwell

A set of films featuring Dr Tobias Capwell, one of the leading authorities on late medieval armour, linked to the armour and weapons in the Wallace Collection in London.

• armour and arrows part 1 (14 mins)
• armour and arrows part 2 (22 mins)
• helmets etc (30 mins)
• use of poll-axes (16 mins)

Plus a talk on plate armour by Dr Capwell

And 2 minutes of snippets of film showing re-enactors running, jumping and leaping up in full armour

Reviews in History

This is part of the Institute of Historical Research website. These reviews not only give the reviewer’s thoughts on the book but also set out in detail the core points that the book has made. In a quick scan I’ve found these reviews that are relevant to A level courses on the 15thC but there may be others too!

• Helen Maurer, Margaret of Anjou: Queenship and Power in Late Medieval England reviewed by Joanna Laynesmith

• Michael Hicks, The Wars of the Roses, reviewed by John Watts

• Sean Cunningham, Henry VII, reviewed by John Watts

• Steven Gunn, Henry VII’s New Men and the Making of Tudor England, reviewed by Christine Carpenter

Dan Moorhouse has been building up a range of resources and links to other resources on the Wars of the Roses. This link takes you to material on the ‘harvest of heads’ that followed Cade’s Rebellion and you can follow links to other material from the foot of that page

WotR Mailing List
for A level teachers

I began sending out a newsletter about resources for teaching Wars of the Roses at A level in June 2020.

If you would like to be added to the mailing list please get in touch (details HERE … )


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