Active Learning on

A Guide to Reading on The Wars of the Roses
for new teachers of A level

I’ve had in mind teachers new to The Wars of the Roses at A level, not those who’ve studied the period in detail or taught it for years. Some or all of these books can be read by students.

For more detailed suggestions for reading on individual reigns, other aspects of the period and for links to source material see other entries in the Wars of the Roses section of the website HERE …


J. Gillingham, The Wars of the Roses (1981)
The most readable narrative account (even though nearly 40 years old), especially good on the involvement of other states and social impact.

C. Carpenter, The Wars of the Roses (1997)
The early chapters provide valuable analyses of the historiography and of constitutional ideas – the principles and ideas that influence people’s choices and actions. It’s full of ideas and challenging insights - worth revisiting regularly.

M. Hicks, The Wars of the Roses (2010)
Another excellent source of stimulating arguments as well as being a narrative history and particularly strong on the economic context and its possible impact on the origins of the wars.

A.J. Pollard, Late Medieval England 1399-1509 (2000)
My ‘go to’ book for ‘who did what when’ but much more readable and interesting than that sounds! It also has a helpful introduction to the historiography and sources plus 100 pages in the middle section on society, religion, the nature of politics and government. Though out of print it’s available through the usual web outlets and not always at the ludicrously high prices that may first alarm you.

G.L. Harriss, Shaping the Nation: England 1360-1461 (2005)
A volume in the New Oxford History series which provides detailed analysis of pretty much everything you want to know.

A. J. Pollard, The Wars of the Roses (3rd edition, 2013)
Probably the most valuable book for someone new to the topic, providing analysis of all the key issues in 130 pages - the historiography, causes, impact, the nature of the wars, its aftermath and the European context plus an outline of the course of the wars in 10 pages. It’s in the Palgrave MacMillan British History in Perspectives series but you have to get the third edition which is a substantial revision of earlier editions. Don’t confuse it with Pollard’s other book with the same title that’s next in the list below!

A.J. Pollard (ed.) The Wars of the Roses (1995)
A collection of nine really good articles e.g. Watts on ‘Ideals, Principles and Politics’, Horrox on ‘Personalities and Politics’, Dockray on ‘The Origins of the Wars of the Roses’.

J.L. Laynesmith, The Last Medieval Queens: English Queenship 1445-1503 (2005)
A very good and important analysis of the roles of English queens, an area of recent research which has played a major role in deepening understanding.

H. Castor, Blood and Roses, the Paston family in the Fifteenth Century, 2004
The best ‘story’ of the Pastons integrating their history with the wider events of the period.

K. Dockray, Henry VI, Margaret of Anjou and the Wars of the Roses, a Source Book (2000)
The most accessible collection of source material, organized by topic, with commentary on each topic and on historiography. See also Dockray’s other source collections – Edward IV (1999), Richard III (1997) which were later republished by Fonthill Press.

Web Links

The Dictionary of National Biography is a highly valuable resource for A level teachers and students – on-line access is available through local library cards if your local authority has taken out a subscription. As an example, the entry on Edward IV by Rosemary Horrox prints out at 17 pages, that on Warwick by Tony Pollard runs to 15 pages so these are substantial articles combining a core narrative of the life with interpretation. And anyone who was anyone is in there – all the individuals students need to know about for any British history topic.

See the Oxford DNB HERE …

The Historical Association website provides podcasts by leading historians on a range of aspects of the topic and some articles and talks are also available e.g. Anne Curry’s presidential lecture on Henry VI.

Visit the HA site HERE …

This Page


Reading List

Web Links