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

Course No. 8410
Professor Jennifer Paxton, Ph.D.
The Catholic University of America
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Course No. 8410
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What Will You Learn?

  • Examine early Anglo-Saxon kingdoms and the ways their laws and cultures transformed over time.
  • Separate fact from fiction as you explore the career of Alfred the Great, who created the Wessex Dynasty.
  • Examine the many ill-advised foreign ventures that Henry III embarked on, which led to the creation of Parliament.
  • Study how the Lancastrians attempted to unseat Edward IV after his marriage to a socially inconsequential widow.

Course Overview

Evidence of Great Britain's legacy to the English-speaking world—indeed, to most of the Western world itself—is all around us, woven intimately into the fabric of almost every aspect of daily life. We see it in

  • the laws and system of justice that help guide our behavior;
  • the political principles that underpin our representative governments;
  • the nature of those governments and their relationship to the governed;
  • much of our most glorious literature and art; and
  • our very language itself, from its most subtle meditations to its most powerful vulgarities.

But while many of us in search of the roots of this shared heritage often focus our attention on the contributions of modern Britain, the answers we seek are actually to be found much earlier.

For it is in the medieval history of England, Britain's most important realm, that our search must begin, from the withdrawal of Rome's legions to the beginning of the Tudor dynasty in 1485.

Even if you have a solid familiarity with medieval history as a whole, understanding the lessons of medieval England is essential to rounding out your knowledge of the period. Moreover, these lessons are a key to understanding much of the Western world that followed, including the social, political, and cultural legacies by which that world has been enriched.

The Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest tells the remarkable story of a tumultuous thousand-year period. Dominated by war, conquest, and the struggle to balance the stability brought by royal power with the rights of the governed, it was a period that put into place the foundation of much of the world we know today.

Taught by Professor Jennifer Paxton, an honored scholar and a professor at The Catholic University of America, The Story of Medieval England's 36 lectures feature a level of detail and attention to key figures that set this course apart from those with a more narrow focus.

Grasp the Emergence of the Themes that Shaped the Western World

As you journey through The Story of Medieval England's largely chronological narrative—occasionally interrupted for lecture-long explorations of specific topics—you'll see the course's key themes emerge. And as you do, Professor Paxton explains their impact and place in the larger historical picture:

  • The long process of creating a unified English state by assimilating successive waves of ethnically diverse invaders, developing a particular sense of "Englishness,"and forging the growth of English nationalism
  • The competition for power as different individuals struggled to establish rule and demonstrate the skills demanded of a king who would rule successfully
  • The tense relationship between kings and the nobility, including changes in the nature of noble rebellion
  • The role of the most persistent of those tensions—over money and taxation—in the creation and evolution of both the Magna Carta and Parliament
  • How changes in economics, religion, law and justice, literacy, disease, and other factors affected everyday life for English people of all classes

And because so much of history is driven by specific individuals and not just historical circumstance, each lecture is rich in intimate portraits that reveal those individuals at the key moments of their historical destiny. Among the extraordinary figures you'll encounter are many who are undoubtedly familiar, including these:

  • Alfred the Great, whose leadership against the Vikings, in the face of overwhelming military superiority, laid the foundation for what would become the first ruling house of a united England
  • William the Conqueror, the extraordinary ruler whose name tells only part of the story, with his reign serving as a demonstration of how to truly consolidate and maintain power
  • Eleanor of Aquitaine, the powerful French wife of King Henry II whose network of patrons fostered the spread of courtly literature and provided support for writers such as Chrétien de Troyes
  • John Wycliffe, the Oxford cleric whose attacks on some of the core tenets of the Catholic Church contributed greatly to Protestant doctrine at the time of the Reformation.

Learn How History Can Be Shaped Even by Those in Its Shadows

But there are others, as well. You'll meet men and women visible to history only for what they represented as members of a group. These include people like the anonymous craftsman taking up arms in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381, enraged that the dramatically reduced work force left by the Black Death still could not command a living wage.

And you'll meet some who achieved fame chiefly among historians, like the Pastons. The story of this family's 15th-century rise from the yeomanry to the gentry bursts forth from the treasure trove of letters they shared for generations and that have survived to this day. As scholars have pored over them, a great amount of detail has emerged that gives us real insight into the achievements and hardship of these new practitioners of upward mobility.

The precious historical legacy represented by the Paston correspondence, however, represents only one of the ways in which Professor Paxton keeps the course vibrant and moving. Presenting her material in a cheerful and comfortable style, she continually unveils fresh perspectives on the lives of the men and women who determined England's history, from the wealthiest noble to the hardest-working serf.

She reads from Chaucer, reveals details from the unprecedented collection of information in what would become known as The Domesday Book, and leads you onto the bloody soil of some of history's most memorable battles—each time turning history into spellbinding narrative.

Medieval British History Made Crystal Clear

Just as important, she does it while making the meaning of each historical moment crystal clear, while also illuminating its role as part of a greater whole. Periodically, she pauses in the overall chronology to devote entire lectures to specific issues, such as Chaucer and the rise of English, or the evolution of knighthood and chivalry, so that your view of history's forest is never overwhelmed by your nearness to the trees.

The result is a course that winds up being not only informative but deeply entertaining, with each lecture drawing you in with its own particular fascinations, including

  • a probing look at the scope of the Black Death and its social, economic, and religious implications, including its role in ultimately bringing about the Peasants' Revolt decades later;
  • a realistic examination of the legends of both King Arthur and Robin Hood, revealing whether there is indeed a core of truth at the heart of the stories we have heard;
  • a riveting description of the Battle of Bosworth Field, where the defeat of Richard III marked the beginning of the Tudor reign and ushered in a new age in English politics;
  • an insightful look at the origins of the role of the coroner, and what an examination of early records of death can tell us about the ways in which English people lived during the late Middle Ages, and
  • a discussion of the surprisingly nuanced penalties of the early Germanic law codes, which reveals the tremendous social complexity among the Germanic settlers in Britain in spite of the lack of any organized "state.”

Throughout The Story of Medieval England, including a tour de force final lecture in which she tightly weaves together the course's main themes and events, Professor Paxton consistently delivers a fresh level of understanding about medieval England, its rulers and subjects, and their significance for the world we live in today. The chain of theme and event that links our world to theirs will never be clearer, rewarding every moment you spend with this course.

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36 lectures
 |  Average 31 minutes each
  • 1
    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. x
  • 2
    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. x
  • 3
    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. x
  • 4
    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. x
  • 5
    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. x
  • 6
    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. x
  • 7
    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. x
  • 8
    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. x
  • 9
    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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x
  • 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. x

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  • 216-page printed course guidebook
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Your professor

Jennifer Paxton

About Your Professor

Jennifer Paxton, Ph.D.
The Catholic University of America
Dr. Jennifer Paxton is Assistant Director of the University Honors Program and Clinical Assistant Professor of History at The Catholic University of America. She was previously a Professorial Lecturer in History at Georgetown University, where she taught for more than a decade. The holder of a doctorate in history from Harvard University, where she has also taught and earned a Certificate of Distinction, Professor Paxton is...
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Story of Medieval England: From King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest is rated 4.8 out of 5 by 194.
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Well Organized and Informative! I consider myself something of a history buff, especially military history. Therefore, it was a great pleasure to see a fascinating period of English history portrayed in a thoughtful and organized fashion. It "connected the dots", so to speak, of many episodes that I had been aware of, such as Agincourt, the 1066 invasion, the wars of the Roses, and others. But moreover, controversies about this period of history were treated head-on with the latest scholarship. A great job in presentation by someone who is clearly an expert and extremely enthusiastic about the material.
Date published: 2017-02-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent throughout I have become a devotee of TGCs, and have now approaching a hundred, which I am working my way through. Many of the TTCs lecturers are good to excellent. In my (and my wife's view) Jennifer Paxton would have to be on the podium with the very best. Her style is clear and concise, but tinged with humour and whimsy. Having been brought up in England, and having had to endure history lessons a half century ago, I finally have a RICH understanding of the period she deals with in this course. Full marks !
Date published: 2017-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent instructor The instructor is absolutely first rate. I'm a college professor myself who has spent some time on teaching technique. She is clear and engaging and always interesting and is remarkably free of "professor" mannerisms (unlike some of the instructors). The material is fascinating.
Date published: 2017-02-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding survey of medieval England This is one of the best history courses I have listened to in quite a while. Professor Paxton is clear, well organized, and entertaining. The period covered is not one where I spend a lot of my reading, but she brings it to life and keeps the listener engaged. She covers not only the wars, politics, and dynastic intrigue but also touches on daily life during the period, religious developments, and a little bit of the literature. Shakespeare’s treatment of the rulers also comes in for some commentary with the professor pointing out where the bard is true to history and where he takes liberties. I highly recommend this to anyone interested in medieval history or in the background of more modern English history.
Date published: 2017-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Engaging and informative This is irresistible material, and Jennifer Paxton is a terrific storyteller.
Date published: 2016-12-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great course This was a wonderful course and I recommend it highly. Jennifer Paxton is very engaging and the content was interesting and informative. I enjoyed the professor so much that I am planning to search for any other courses that may be offered by her.
Date published: 2016-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Professor, not to miss course This already thrilling period of English History became more exciting with the presentation of Professor Paxton. Her deep knowledge of the period makes her course so smooth, thus enhancing our interest in learning with her lectures. Thank you very much, professor Paxton !
Date published: 2016-09-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very old England Very good course on details you don't get in your English Lit class.
Date published: 2016-09-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Professor! I would give this course 10 stars if I could! Why? I'm not all that interested in British History and I could not wait to watch each class. My husband is a great fan of British History, so I grudging agreed to buy this course. The minute Professor Paxton opened her mouth I fell in love with her and her teaching style. The course content was excellent, and Prof. Paxton is very humorous in a quiet and droll manner. I don't think she is trying to be funny, she just is. Her expressions and manner of speaking make each class a delight. She can explain the "naughty bits" with class and a twinkle of the eye. I would watch anything she does with delight.
Date published: 2016-08-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Medieval England in a Nutshell Dr, Paxton is very clear and easy to follow. Her lectures are well organized with interesting asides. She covers a huge amount of history but it feels like a storytelling, not at all dry or bogged down. All the details make the story richer and more enjoyable.
Date published: 2016-08-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Medieval England survey...context Audio download. Overall, this series of lectures is very good (4.5 is a good number). Professor Paxton is well organized and clear-speaking, but more importantly, is entertaining in a way that first teaches you something about the early history of England, and keeps your interest. Dr Paxton's presentation style is informal...I like that...more like a conversation rather than a recitation (she may be reading from a script, but I couldn't's obvious that she knows the material). The guidebook, including the timeline, is a useful tool and should not be ignored (but is it asking too much for a map or two?). Too often, we tend to depend on the lecturer too much, expecting them to do all the work...we need to be a bit more proactive and actually use the reference material, rather than complain about what is or is not being presented to us. For those considering buying/listening to this set (no long-winded book report here), please consider the lectures as part of an overall study of medieval (western) Europe, meant to complement lectures by Daileader, Harl, Armstrong and Ruiz. Each lecture set is not a complete history...detailed, but not too detailed...just a series of survey courses to help the student (mostly us senior citizen-types) understand that part of the world's history. Good news is that these lectures are often on sale, and, with the proper coupon, can be had for about $0.72/ lecture. I recommend Paxton's lectures to the casual scholar whose interests are widely varied, and seeks a good companion on the treadmill.
Date published: 2016-08-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Delight! Review of Story of Medieval England from King Arthur to the Tudor Conquest What a delight! I can't think of a better way to describe Professor Paxton's lectures as a delight to listen to. She is never boring in spite of having to cover a huge trove of information spanning entire centuries of the Middle Ages in England. Here's a quote from her lecture called "The Flowering of Chivalry" where she tells how the "dubbing" ritual became the standard for a new knight, and how it was a big deal for a lord to arrange to have his eldest son dubbed. After a night-long vigil, there would be "an elaborate ceremony followed by a huge party... probably as expensive as a big wedding... You can just imagine medieval parents stressing out over their son's dubbing just the way a modern parent might over a bar Mitzvah: Who do we invite? Where are they going to stay? That sort of thing." About Henry II, Professor Paxton said, "When I imagine Henry II, I always imagine Peter O'Toole, who played the king in two famous movies: Becket playing opposite Richard Burton, and The Lion in Winter playing opposite Katherine Hepburn, possibly one of the only women in history who is just as formidable as the queen she is portraying, Eleanor of Aquitaine." She added that Henry II had a long and complicated reign that merited two films, so she decided to devote two lectures to the subject. There's more about Eleanor in the second lecture, where Professor Paxton describes Henry's "masterstroke: He marries the newly divorced ex-Queen of France -- and I promise that I'll give you the juicy details later in the lecture!" Amateur linguists will find out how Anglo-Saxon morphed into English, and how English remained dominant in spite of the country being ruled by decades of French speakers starting from the Norman invasion. In fact the French speakers became anglicized instead of vice-versa. Fans of Shakespeare can compare what's in the plays versus what historians know (lots of things right and lots of things subject to artistic license, including who was the real inspiration for Falstaff). We find out about King Arthur (probably a real person, but not a king but rather a "war leader" during "one brief shining moment that will fade into darkness") and about Robin Hood (probably not a real person, in fact "it may be just a job description.") Fans of decisive battles will find out how armies were arrayed at the famous battles of Hastings and Agincourt and lots more. Attention fans of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones series! What's fun is to hear Professor Paxton describe some real-life incident and to recognize something similar showing up in the books or HBO series. Eleanor the Duchess of Gloucester had to undergo a "walk of shame" in the 1440's. Edward the Black Prince ran roughshod over northern France burning and pillaging towns and farms the way Ser Gregor Clegane pillaged the Riverlands. England experienced some real-life usurpers like Robert Baratheon, such as Henry Bolingbrook who defeated Richard II and became Henry IV, and Henry Tudor who defeated the infamous Richard III and became Henry VII. By the way, the real-life Richard III was not a hunchback and did not offer to exchange his kingdom for a horse.
Date published: 2016-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great Prof Excellent content presented in a very understandable manner with a bit of humor here and there to make it more enjoyable and easy to grasp
Date published: 2016-06-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Comprehensive Review of Medieval History (England) I find Medieval history endlessly fascinating and this course does not disappoint.
Date published: 2016-06-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So happy that I found The Great Courses! After I retired I found myself longing for something like this. I have enjoyed all of the The Great Courses and look forward to many more. NEVER STOP LEARNING!
Date published: 2016-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Absolutely First Rate! We gave this course to each other as an anniversary present. We're in Lecture 13 at this point, but it's already apparent that this is among the very best courses either of us has taken. It's right up there with Prof. Wm. Hall's "Philosophy of Religion". Prof. Paxton is an engaging speaker and her explanations are crystal-clear and never dull. THANKS!! John and Katherine Olsen
Date published: 2016-06-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful History lessons I have just heard a couple of the lessons in this course, as I just signed up last week. The instructor is easy to understand and makes the course very interesting. I have long been a lover of old English history, and this adds a lot to my understanding.
Date published: 2016-03-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Kudos for Professor Paxton Among the best features of this excellent course is the engaging presentation by Professor Paxton. She is a talented storyteller and her presentation makes the characters of history come alive again. When I finished this course, I immediately looked for more or her work. I think that you will too.
Date published: 2016-03-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Superb An excellent 36-lecture survey of approximately 1000 years of English history. I enjoyed the entire course immensely and learned a great deal (especially about the later kings - I already knew quite a bit about the Anglo-Saxon kings). Professor Paxton really knows what she is talking about and she manages to make the complexities of English medieval history, along with its multitude of kings and numerous players, accessible to the general lay viewer. That is in itself a tremendous feat. Regarding her delivery, I can only say it is extremely PROFESSIONAL. She is totally slick and makes virtually no slips. In this respect I can make perhaps the only slight criticism of the course: a slightly more relaxed tone at times and greater use of humour would have made it even more accessible still. Overall, this is a superb course which I can only recommend wholeheartedly to the student of medieval English history, which we all know is the world's most important subject :)
Date published: 2016-02-11
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent This an excellent course, very well structured and superbly presented. It follows a historical timeline from the fall of the Roman Empire in 406AD to the death of King Richard III in 1485AD. Every lecture is clear, forward and backward references are explained in detail and Professor Paxton’s style is informal and interesting. Above all, the course tells a very clear story of the emergence in England during the Middle Ages of the basic elements of modern government: A central and trusted justice system; regional devolution of power; the institution of parliament with representative government; and tiered executive structures run by competent administrators. Through these historic changes, England transformed itself from a land of warring tribes into a coherent and united nation. I have no hesitation in giving a five star rating although I do have some minor criticisms. First, the course makes no attempt to relate its subject matter to the broader history of the World, or even Europe. Instead, it treats medieval England in isolation (apart from its troubled relations with France). I believe that this very fine presentation would have been even better if it was seen in the light of the transition of England and the rest of Western Europe from warring tribes to organized nations, a period that laid the foundation for the extraordinary emergence of Western Europe as powers that eventually displaced even China and the Middle East. The effect of technological development is also barely mentioned despite its importance at the time and for the future. Examples include wind and water power, shipbuilding, gunpowder, mechanical clocks, the compass, and the printing press. The only one of these that Professor Paxton discusses is the influence of Caxton’s printing press.
Date published: 2016-01-29
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Full marks for a great course The course has excellent structure, essentially chronological, but periodically including thematic lectures for greater depth. This course covers a long time period (1000-ish years) and there are a _lot_ of characters, however the professor is mindful to present the content at a good speed, not too slow to be boring, but not broadly brushing over topics, so for example, you can know which of the five Harolds or Matildas in the lecture she is actually talking about. Not much to complain about in this course, highly recommended!
Date published: 2016-01-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Born to love this course I admit my bias, unreservedly. I love early English history and I come by it naturally. But for the restraining hand of my mother, my father would have named me Ethelred at birth. While surviving that history-geek version of "A Boy Named Sue" might have led to my becoming a UFC light heavyweight champion, I am frankly grateful to have missed the opportunity. I am also grateful, however, for the love of history my father instilled. And Early English History is among my favorites. So I cannot claim to be unbiased when I started out loving the subject matter before I clicked Play on the first lecture. But I am obviously not alone. Immediately one realizes that Prof. Paxton is utterly infected with a love of her subject area, and that passion never wanes. Her tone and excitement at significant developments are as if the events occurred just a week ago. As for the content, I do wish there had been more, but I readily concede that none of the time was wasted or used on needless repetition. It would have been better if it had been an 84-part course instead of 36, but then there would be only two copies sold: one to me, and one to some long-suffering soul that goes by Ed even though he knows his father named him for Edward the Confessor.
Date published: 2015-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wonderful Dr Paxton really brings the medieval period to life. Very enjoyable.
Date published: 2015-11-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Probably one of the best presentations I've experienced with TTC courses. Dr. Paxton has delivered a well thought out and clear presentation. Her lectures demonstrate a good deal of preparation. I watched this course twice and it held my interest through both viewings. I have to admit I had a problem sifting through the various geneologies, but she was able to make the appropriate connections. This course was well worth the time and money invested.
Date published: 2015-10-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding course I bought this course several years ago and have listened to it several times, always learning new things and enjoying it more with each re-listening. Paxton is an outstanding lecturer and story teller with a wry sense of humor. She seems to be on top of the latest scholarship, and she includes just the right mix of social, political and military history, with plenty of engaging anecdotes about Kings and Queens and other personalities. I'd predict that anyone with an interest in English history -- or history in general -- will love this course. Note to TTC production and marketing staff: I'd suggest that you highlight Paxton as a best-practice example in the briefing materials you prepare for newly engaged TTC lecturers to show them what they must do to delight the audience, strengthen customer loyalty, and generate repeat sales.
Date published: 2015-10-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Delightful course Professor Paxton narrates this story so well that it seems the people in it were alive only yesterday. She demonstrates a deep knowledge of her subject which Dr. Paxton conveys with ease and confidence and in an entertaining, informative, and detailed way. She made this history very alive. When a question comes up about some specific of the English medieval period I find myself going to the appropriate section and watching it once again. This was a history course that I hated to have end.
Date published: 2015-09-22
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Excellent course in content and instructor What an exiting and informative course this is. I am only on lesson 16, but the content of the course has answered all the questions I have ever had concerning the birth and growth of England. Each lesson is well organized and presented and leads you into the next part of the story. One of the biggest hits is Jennifer Paxton. Perfect, just perfect. When she lectures, her tone, mannerism, and sense of humor draws you deeper and deeper into the story. Congratulations 'Great Courses.' You have found yourself a winner with this course; both in content and instructor.
Date published: 2015-07-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One of the Best This course (I had the audio version) is simply one of the best I have listened to from The Great Courses. I looked forward to a new lecture each day. Professor Paxton has a great gift for storytelling and is a very engaging and entertaining speaker. The content of each lecture was well-organized and placed within the context of the overall course. I knew a good deal about English history before this course and I now feel I have an even greater understanding of the 'big picture'. A job very well done!
Date published: 2015-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Dr Paxton sets the bar high ... I have been purchasing and viewing The Great Courses for over a decade now. I own more than 200 of The Great Courses and, I believe that it is fair to say, that I have experienced a very broad sampling of TGC's faculty. The very fact that I feel compelled to write my first review ever, should be an indication of how favorably impressed I am by Dr Paxton's presentation. Disclosures: I purchase all of my courses on DVD (except for the few that I own that were not available, at least at the time of my purchase, on DVD), which accounts for 97% of my Great Course library. I am not in any way affiliated with The Teaching Company and my opinions are purely my own. While I am an ardent lover of history, my interest in Medieval England alone was not compelling enough for me to purchase this course. It was after listening to Dr Paxton's audio course, "1066: The Year that changed Everything," that left me feeling that I had to watch or listen to any other course that Dr Paxton has prepared for TGC's. Here is why ... The Professor: The short answer is that, IMO, Dr Paxton does everything right and really doesn't do anything wrong. After 200 courses, one develops a very real sense of what they do NOT like TGC presenters to do. While the content of these courses is nearly universally (with a few exceptions) excellent, the presentation of some lecturers is not always excellent. In my opinion, Dr Paxton has found that magic balance in the cadence of her speech and the pace of each lecture. Not too much gesticulation, not too little, not too fast a pace and definitely not too slow. Her attire is conservative and tasteful and changes throughout the 36 lectures. The quality of her voice is pleasant (not shrill or grating). There are no distracting habits (no repeated "umms," no looking up or down or away from the camera, no throat clearing, no jerky movements, etc). She takes a good command of the stage, moves fluidly, speaks clearly and transitions between teleprompters smoothly. In 36 lectures, I do not recall Dr Paxton making a single mistake in delivery. Either TGC's editing has improved significantly or she gave a flawless performance. Simply put, Dr Paxton is one of the top 3 smoothest, most polished lecturers that I have had the genuine pleasure of experiencing from my many Great Courses. Her style of presentation is charismatic with an obvious love and enthusiasm for her subject material. One gets the very strong sense that the depth of her knowledge goes far beyond what is offered in these lectures. I saved the best for last. With respect to organization of the course as a whole, and each individual lecture, DR PAXTON REPRESENTS THE GOLD STANDARD IN HOW TO PRESENT COURSE MATERIAL. This course was so well organized and thought out that I was simply blown away at how well it was put together. While the course is generally chronological in it's organization, Dr Paxton takes occasional pauses in the advancing chronology to cover some general topics: Peasant life, Life at Court, local and broad economies, Art and Music, the Black Plague, etc. These brief intermissions from the advancing history (500 AD - 1485 AD) are well timed, informative and always applicable to the developing storyline. The Course: The course as presented, delivers on what is promised in the course summary (online and in the catalogs). If you read the course summary then you already know what the course is about. Personally, I found the course far more interesting than I had anticipated. I also learned more than I thought that I would. While this course compliments some of my others (History of England from the Tudors to the Stuarts, Early Middle Ages, High Middle Ages, 1066) this was by far my favorite of all of these courses with "1066" being a close second. This was a well balanced course with respect to detail and interesting side stories. Dr Paxton tells you at the beginning of each lecture what will be covered and summarizes the high points at the conclusion of each lecture. She even teases you with tantalizing tidbits that will be "revealed in a future lecture." All "teasers" are satisfactorily expanded on, as promised, in later lectures. This is a very well organized and presented course. DVD/Streaming vs Audio Only: Personally, I found the many maps (particularly for battles or migrations), illustrations (especially of the Kings and other key individuals), and particularly the family trees (Pedigrees) to be enormously helpful. I could have followed the course without these extras but they made it much easier to visualize a battle or to keep a particular King's ancestry organized in my mind. Conclusion: While this is not my all time favorite Great Course, Dr Paxton made it one of my most satisfying. If you are interested in this time period, Medieval life, the history of England or the roots of self governance embodied in the US Constitution then this course is definitely worth your consideration. My highest praise goes to the the presenter, Dr Jennifer Paxton for being as perfect a lecturer as I have seen thus far in my long history with the Great Courses.
Date published: 2015-06-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Informative and Entertaining The course was very informative and presented in a lively and entertaining manner. It covered the history of England before the Norman conquest and then presented each of the English kings through Richard III. It discussed the important military and political events in each reign. It also covered some of their personal affairs. There were diversions to discuss the lives and times of the people during different periods.
Date published: 2015-05-27
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