History

The Wars of the Roses are a major component of many A Level courses and are an essential background topic for courses on the Tudors. You can also choose to do an EPQ on the period and we have a list of possible topics to consider here.

The A Level syllabus is mainly focussed on high politics. You will find general information on this across this website. We are also assembling webpages specifically with the A Level syllabus in mind: these include extracts from historians and contemporary sources to help you explore the politics in more depth (the Key Issues page), and points to consider when examining each topic. (Please note that these are suggestions from individual Society members. The Richard III Society does not have an agreed interpretation of events because we welcome continued re-examination of the available evidence and recognise that many of the questions can never be definitively answered).

Developing your knowledge of religion, society, culture and economics will help you to analyse the motives and context of political actions. Across this website you will find pages that help to provide that background.

There is a great website for A Level history teachers with lots of resources on it called Thinking History.

The Fifteenth Century

The fifteenth century was an extraordinary age. England was certainly not the only European country that experienced dramatic changes in government and frequent military conflicts. Historians vigorously debate the causes, consequences and nature of a mid-fifteenth-century economic slump. Yet it was also an age of innovation in science and in ideas. Leonardo da Vinci was born five months before Richard III and Nicolaus Copernicus only sixteen months after Edward V. In the 1440s a German goldsmith called Johannes Guthenberg invented the printing press which William Caxton brought to London in the 1470s. Voyages of exploration were launched from Bristol in the early 1480s and in 1496 Henry VII commissioned John Cabot to seek new lands: this resulted in the earliest known European exploration of coastal north America since the Vikings.

New approaches to art included the development of portraiture which aimed to provide a genuine likeness of the subject. The English language was shifting out of Middle English into a form that is relatively easy for us to understand today. English was used far more in government and politics as well as in literature. Religious devotion had remarkable consequences that ranged from exquisite art and new educational foundations to Joan of Arc’s courage in leading French forces into battle and Margery Kempe’s desire to compose a book that was the first autobiography in English.

Acros the internet there are many introductions to the fascinating history of the fifteenth century. You can find just a few of them below and related podcasts here.


Dr Turi King’s Tedx talk on finding the skeleton of Richard III


Matthew Lewis on Richard III


Tony Robinson Richard III: Fact or Fiction on the disappearance of the Princes in the Tower


In Our Time (Radio 4): The Wars of the Roses


Great Lives (Radio 4): Richard III


Find out more about the medieval world:

The struggle for the throne by Edward III's descendants, 1461: BL MS Harley 7353 (detail)