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The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest

Examine the remarkable story of a tumultuous thousand-year period in British history and learn how medieval Britain laid the foundation for much of what we know today.
Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 233.
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Rated 5 out of 5 by from Curiosity Appeased! I was thinking to myself one night, “I don’t know much about the details of the history of England & how it was established.” I knew where to go - the Great Courses - & found this series by Dr. Paxton. Her presentation, delivery, & the accessibility of the knowledge she shares is exactly what I was looking for. I love the way she presents her knowledge with sources, stories, direct accounts, historical analysis, etc - it is extremely impressive & easy to follow, as well. She is an excellent lecturer & truly a master at this subject matter. I am hooked!
Date published: 2023-03-17
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Comprehensive But Boring to Watch The main problem with this course is the lack of visual examples. Given the breadth of this course (basically 14 centuries) one would think the presenter and the production team would supplement 36 lectures with plenty of pictures, paintings, and other visual examples. Not so. I could have bought the audio version of this course and received the same level of enjoyment.
Date published: 2023-01-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent Course! This is one of my favorites of all the courses I’ve bought. Dr. Paxton really makes the subject matter interesting and informative. Her lectures are clear and well presented. I highly recommend it!
Date published: 2022-12-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from More GC Ivy League Professors please… I have had the opportunity to watch two separate courses taught by Dr. Paxton - both on midieval English history (and both were excellent indeed). First for starters, the importance of English/British history cannot be understated. This is because the very roots of modern western democratic movements and traditions really started in earnest - in Britain (going back almost a thousand years). So in essence if one wants to understand the history of democracy - this course is a must. Additionally the level and quality of instruction is simply great. In fact, it seems every GC course given by an Ivy League professor has been great - in my personal experience that is. I’m hoping GC will offer a British survey history course from 1714 to the present eventuallly too.
Date published: 2022-12-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Loved this detailed and engaging course! This is a fantastic and really interesting course and Dr. Paxton is an excellent instructor. I loved the breadth and level of detail and finished the course in a couple of months. I was looking for something that spanned the centuries, and this course didn't disappoint. I enjoyed delving into the aspects of the average person's life during these periods, in addition to learning so much about the kings, queens and players of a given time. Dr. Paxton's presentation style is clear and engaging and I would definitely take another course from her again. I will probably watch this one again, a few times.
Date published: 2022-12-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from I love her courses! She presents the circumstances and the issues at just the level of complexity that I like, so I can try to understand a bit of the world view extant at the time, see the "progress" of European civilization over the centuries.
Date published: 2022-08-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Sweeping Overview of England's Emergence This is another excellent set of lectures by Prof. Paxton. This long course offers a sweeping view of English history from pre-Roman times up to the establishment of the Tudor dynasty in 1485. Paxton spends the most time recounting the reigns of important English kings – their domestic challenges and foreign policy adventures. Admittedly, the swirl of names and battles becomes mind numbing at times. But Paxton very helpfully pauses the chronology periodically to look at subjects such was the evolution of the English economy, changing social structures, and cultural issues such as the development of the English language and the emergence of chivalry. The course provided me with a much better grasp of the main periods of English history: pro-Roman, Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking, and post-Norman – leading to the consolidation of the English state. Dominant themes in the story are the perpetual tug-of-war between English kings and the English barons, the gradual emergence of parliament, and the origins and causes of Anglo-French antagonism over several centuries.
Date published: 2022-07-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Disappointed I was disappointed with this course primarily because it was not what I had expected to receive. The content is reasonable but poorly presented (as a course) not by the tutor. If this is typical of other courses then I will not be purchasing anymore.
Date published: 2022-05-30
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Explore the remarkable story of a tumultuous thousand-year period in British history. Delivered by award-winning Professor Jennifer Paxton, The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest is a tour de force that shows how—in the midst of war and the struggle to balance royal power with the rights of the governed—medieval Britain laid the foundation for much of what we know today. Richly detailed, these 36 lectures are essential to a complete understanding of the modern Western world.


Jennifer Paxton

It was a special joy to me to work with The Great Courses because I was already a longtime customer and fan! I know I had become a better teacher because of my years of listening to the excellent instructors in The Great Courses series.


The Catholic University of America

Jennifer Paxton is a Clinical Associate Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. She is also the Associate Dean of Undergraduate Studies and director of the University Honors Program. She was previously a Professorial Lecturer in History at Georgetown University, where she taught for more than a decade. Jennifer received her PhD in History from Harvard University, where she also taught and earned a Certificate of Distinction in Teaching. She is a widely published, award-winning writer and a highly regarded scholar, earning both a Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities and a Frank Knox Memorial Fellowship.

Jennifer lectures regularly at the Smithsonian Institution and serves as an expert on Scotland and Ireland for Smithsonian Journeys. Her research focuses on England from the reign of King Alfred to the late 12th century. She is particularly interested in the intersection between the authority of church and state and the representation of the past in historical texts, especially those produced by religious communities. She is completing a book that examines how monastic historians shaped their narratives to project present polemical concerns onto the past. She is also working on a project that examines changing views of abbatial leadership across the Anglo-Norman world in the 11th and 12th centuries.

By This Professor

The Celtic World
1066: The Year That Changed Everything
England: From the Fall of Rome to the Norman Conquest
The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest
The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest


From Britannia to Britain

01: From Britannia to Britain

A discussion of how the geography of Britain has shaped political events over the centuries introduces you to the significance of English history between the 5th-century fall of the Roman Empire and the 1485 advent of the Tudor dynasty.

34 min
Roman Britain and the Origins of King Arthur

02: Roman Britain and the Origins of King Arthur

The collapse of Roman rule, arrival of barbarian raiders and settlers, and resistance to Germanic immigration serve as a backdrop to a tantalizing mystery. Examine the evidence as to whether the unidentified champion who temporarily halted the advance of the barbarians could have been the King Arthur of later legend.

33 min
The Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

03: The Early Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms

See how the victories of the shadowy figure possibly identified with Arthur offered only temporary stability, with the initiative soon shifting to the Germanic immigrants. Examine what we know about the societies that produced them and how their laws and culture were transformed by contact with Britain's.

32 min
The Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons

04: The Conversion of the Anglo-Saxons

Follow the parallel stories of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity and the emergence of England's seven preeminent regional kingdoms. Those kingdoms drew—depending on their location—upon two different sources of Christian influence and custom.

32 min
Work and Faith in Anglo-Saxon England

05: Work and Faith in Anglo-Saxon England

Plunge into the substance of daily life for Anglo-Saxons of all social levels, including illness and mortality, the transition from paganism to Christianity, farming, trade, or even raiding. What is clear is that there is tremendous variation in the economic and religious experience of the population.

31 min
The Viking Invasions

06: The Viking Invasions

Watch as the one- or two-boat raids of the late 8th century grew into vast armies of 50 ships or more by the middle of the 9th. Intent on settling permanently, the invaders' influence in eastern England would be profound, with patterns of landholding, legal institutions, and even language altered forever.

32 min
Alfred the Great

07: Alfred the Great

Explore the career of Alfred the Great, who led the heroic resistance that kept Wessex free of Viking control. Separate fact from legend in the life of the man who would create the Wessex dynasty that would eventually become the first ruling house of a united England.

32 min
The Government of Anglo-Saxon England

08: The Government of Anglo-Saxon England

Grasp the well-organized ways in which the Anglo-Saxon state became perhaps the most successful in Christian Europe, with sophisticated coinage and access to the court system by all levels. Although crude by modern standards, it functioned quite well compared to its contemporaries.

33 min
The Golden Age of the Anglo-Saxons

09: The Golden Age of the Anglo-Saxons

Learn why the 10th century is often referred to as the Golden Age of the Anglo-Saxons. It produces not only vernacular literary masterpieces like Beowulf and The Battle of Maldon but inspiring sermons, monastic reform, and an artistic renaissance encompassing book production, metalwork, and needlework.

29 min
The Second Viking Conquest

10: The Second Viking Conquest

The Golden Age ended as the Wessex dynasty was overturned by a second wave of Viking invaders, with Denmark's King Cnut seizing the throne and marrying the Wessex queen. See how the well-organized Wessex state functioned until Edward the Confessor restored the "legitimate" dynasty in 1042.

30 min
The Norman Conquest

11: The Norman Conquest

Learn the reasons behind the overturning of the Anglo-Saxon regime by external invasion. This tightly focused lecture examines both the battle to succeed Edward the Confessor, who died childless, and the defeat of his successor by William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings.

31 min
The Reign of William the Conqueror

12: The Reign of William the Conqueror

Witness an extraordinary consolidation of power as William used the military to overcome early resistance to his rule, systematically expropriated the nobility to install his own followers, and used both legal and administrative measures to fortify his position.

33 min
Conflict and Assimilation

13: Conflict and Assimilation

Open a window on what life was like in post-conquest England through a variety of sources, including the famous Domesday Book compiled at William's order. This extraordinary compilation offered the king an unprecedented survey of English landholding and thus very exact information about wealth and the ability to pay taxes.

32 min
Henry I - The Lion of Justice

14: Henry I - The Lion of Justice

Examine the reign of Henry I in a lecture ranging from his many administrative innovations—including the development of royal accounting at the Exchequer—to the legendary temper that led to the castration of all the royal moneyers discovered to be cheating the treasury.

32 min
The Anarchy of Stephen's Reign

15: The Anarchy of Stephen's Reign

Experience the 14 years of civil war that erupted 4 years after Henry's death in 1135, with his daughter and nephew battling over Stephen's throne—largely because England's barons had no wish to be ruled by a queen.

31 min
Henry II - Law and Order

16: Henry II - Law and Order

See how England returned to order as Henry II razed castles built without the crown's permission, consolidated justice in royal hands, and standardized its operations. But he also raced toward a fateful and ultimately deadly confrontation with his former chancellor and best friend, Thomas Becket, archbishop of Canterbury.

32 min
Henry II - The Expansion of Empire

17: Henry II - The Expansion of Empire

With Becket dead and martyred, Henry faced the difficult task of keeping a secure hold on his many continental dominions and managing his children's futures. Learn how the many royal titles created by his family's politically intertwined bloodlines created just as many possible conflicts.

34 min
Courtly Love

18: Courtly Love

Take a pause from political intrigue to look at the culture that flavored the royal and princely courts, with a focus on the rise of courtly love, the music and poetry that were its backdrop, and the creation of a rich tradition of vernacular Arthurian romances.

31 min
Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade

19: Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade

View the reign of Richard the Lionheart primarily through the lens of his experience as a crusader, with implications focusing on the position of Jews in England, the development of royal administration in his absence, and the ambitions of his brother.

32 min
King John and the Magna Carta

20: King John and the Magna Carta

Experience the disastrous reign of King John. His technical violation of a feudal oath to the French king led to the loss of Normandy and several expensive efforts to regain his lost land—efforts that ultimately led to the signing of the Magna Carta.

32 min
Daily Life in the 13th Century

21: Daily Life in the 13th Century

Another pause in the political narrative allows for a close look at life in a 13th-century English village—life that had changed materially for the better since the Anglo-Saxon and Norman periods.

32 min
The Disastrous Reign of Henry III

22: The Disastrous Reign of Henry III

A key theme of the course comes into sharp focus as you see how Henry's many ill-advised foreign ventures created a never-ending need for money to be provided by England's barons. Their frustration triggered a revolt and the nucleus of what would ultimately become Parliament.

31 min
The Conquests of Edward I

23: The Conquests of Edward I

Explore the reign of Henry's far more talented son, Edward I, from the perspective of both his military career—as a crusader and in Scotland, Wales, and France—and his role as a lawgiver, including greatly expanding the role of Parliament in making statute law.

33 min
Edward II - Defeat and Deposition

24: Edward II - Defeat and Deposition

Step into the life of a king whose reign was one of great controversy. Edward is beset by intimations of sexually based patronage given to a favored knight, growing baronial resentment, an infamous defeat by the Scots, deposition by his own wife, and ultimately his murder.

32 min
Edward III and the Hundred Years' War

25: Edward III and the Hundred Years' War

See how repeated trade conflicts with the French drove Edward to claim the French throne. What would become the Hundred Years War produced both stunning victories and years of stalemate and plundering that left the French countryside impoverished but made the fortunes of many English knights and soldiers.

32 min
The Flowering of Chivalry

26: The Flowering of Chivalry

Learn the intricacies of the tournament and the practice of heraldry as you observe the evolution of the knight. What was once little more than a noble's hired thug evolved into a figure expected to participate in knightly culture and maintain new standards of proper, often heroic, behavior.

32 min
The Black Death

27: The Black Death

England, already weakened by a series of famines, was devastated by the disastrous epidemic that swept across Europe and arrived on its shores in 1348. It left in its wake social, economic, and religious effects that would endure for many decades.

31 min
The Peasants' Revolt of 1381

28: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381

Grasp how both religious frustrations and economic grievances stemming from the dislocations of the Black Death combined to bring about the most significant event in Richard II's early reign: the Middle Ages' most serious revolt against the English crown.

32 min
Chaucer and the Rise of English

29: Chaucer and the Rise of English

A journey through some selected works, including Piers Ploughman and The Canterbury Tales, highlights the rise of vernacular English poetry in the 14th century, with English also becoming a principal vehicle for religious writing.

32 min
The Deposition of Richard II

30: The Deposition of Richard II

Appreciate the extraordinary turns history can often take. Richard II's reign, which once seemed so promising, disintegrates in factional fighting and disputes so bitter they ultimately led not only to his deposition but to judicially sanctioned murder.

31 min
Daily Life in the 15th Century

31: Daily Life in the 15th Century

Examine how the population losses of the plague years finally produced the low rents and high wages that were once the goal of the Peasants' Revolt. The position of the gentry could also be precarious, with landowners often forced to defend their holdings in court or at sword point.

31 min
Henry V and the Victory at Agincourt

32: Henry V and the Victory at Agincourt

Resume the chronology of England's evolution as war with France is renewed and Henry V wins a historic victory at Agincourt in 1415. But gains of this great triumph of the Hundred Years War would ultimately prove only temporary.

31 min
Henry VI - Defeat and Division

33: Henry VI - Defeat and Division

The tensions over dynastic succession were made even more problematic by a multitude of ambitious royal cousins and were forced to the surface by growing discontent over the failing campaign in France. They ultimately led to the Wars of the Roses between the Yorkists and Lancastrians.

32 min
The Wars of the Roses

34: The Wars of the Roses

Take a look at the reign of the Yorkist Edward IV and the last effort of the Lancastrians to unseat this popular but notoriously lazy king, whose unexpected marriage to a socially inconsequential widow alienated many of his most important followers.

32 min
Richard III - Betrayal and Defeat

35: Richard III - Betrayal and Defeat

Let yourself be riveted by one of history's most dramatic chapters, highlighted by the imprisonment of Richard III's two nephews in the Tower of London and their probable murder, and a battlefield demise immortalized—though with considerable license—by Shakespeare himself.

34 min
England in 1485

36: England in 1485

Process everything you have learned in a final lecture that explains what England had become at the beginning of the Tudor dynasty. A thorough integration of the course's major themes leaves you with a clear understanding of what has taken place and a solid foundation for understanding the future of what would become the world's most powerful and influential nation.

33 min