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Room: Bowland B122
HIST317: Richard III and the Princes in the Tower - Politics and Power in the Later Fifteenth Century
Special Subject (60 credits)
Thanks to William Shakespeare, ‘Richard III and the Princes in the Tower’ is probably the one episode of late medieval English history that everyone has heard of. More significantly, so far as studying it at university is concerned, the activities of the Richard III Society (whose view of Richard I do not share) have made it a particularly well-documented subject, with almost all the prescribed sources being available in print in English (the few which are not will be specially translated for the purposes of the module). They include not only two eye-witness accounts of the coup of June 1483, but also the remarkable British Library MS. Harley 433, which is a complete record of all grants, memos, etc. issued by Richard's private secretariat.The module will start with the events of 1483 (providing students with the opportunity to tackle that most popular piece of historical detection. ‘What happened to the Princes?’ - an excellent way of becoming acquainted with the main primary sources). Then it will move to the longer-term question: What were the circumstances which enabled the history of Yorkist England, to Edward IV's marriage with Elizabeth Woodville, for example, and to the role of the Neville affinity (which was eventually headed by Richard III) in the politics of the period. It will also involve studying national and local power structures. Next, the module will turn to Richard's actual reign. Among the main questions will be: How did he try to maintain his power? What was the role of his northern supporters? Why was the Buckingham rebellion crushed so easily? What went wrong for him at Bosworth? Then, again, long-term issues will be raised, by viewing Richard's reign from the standpoint of Henry VII’s. Why, for example, did Henry VII succeed in maintaining his kingship - and thus ending the long period of chronic English political instability - where the Yorkist kings failed. That leads, in turn, to the way Tudor propaganda blackened Richard’s reputation, and so gives the occasion to look at the growth of the myth eventually immortalised by Shakespeare. At the same time, the way in which historical writing was changing in the late fifteenth century under ‘Renaissance’ influences can also be examined. And the module will finish with two special ‘northern’ themes. One is relations with Scotland; Richard’s main lasting achievement was the capture of Berwick in 1482, and so it is worth studying his campaign and involvement in the Scottish political crisis of that year. The other is the north-west, especially the Lancaster area, in this period; it should be particularly interesting to Lancaster students that John Gardyner, the first known benefactor of Lancaster Grammar School and lord of Bailrigg in 1467 (commemorated in the plaque in Alexandra Square), seems to have been an adherent of Richard’s, and so were most of the other local landowners, with the notable exception of the Stanleys.
Teaching Arrangements: All Special Subjects in the History department operate on the basis of 66 hours of official teaching contact, equivalent to 3 hours per week over a period spanning 22 weeks (10 weeks in Michaelmas Term of year 3, 10 weeks in Lent Term of year 3, and 2 weeks [revision seminars] in Summer Term of year 3), plus individual consultations. Working within the 66-hour overall figure, teaching approaches will vary due to the specialist nature of the courses.
For further information on HIST317 visit the Lancaster University Online Courses Handbook.
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