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King John: An Underrated King (Anthem…

King John: An Underrated King (Anthem Perspectives in History) (edition 2012)

by Graham E. Seel

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511,436,638 (5)1
Title:King John: An Underrated King (Anthem Perspectives in History)
Authors:Graham E. Seel
Info:Anthem Press (2012), Kindle Edition, 244 pages
Collections:Your library, Owned, eBooks
Tags:eBook, history, British history, Medieval, biography, 2013, Kindle Store

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King John: An Underrated King (Anthem Perspectives in History) by Graham E. Seel



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I was tempted to read this after the wholly negative portrayal of the King in the (very good) Elizabeth Chadwick novel, To Defy A King. I will also admit to having been for a long time slightly miffed that, while Richard III has a society dedicated to enhancing his reputation and many writers of fiction and non-fiction anxious to boost (some would say whitewash) his reputation, King John has none of this panoply of modern day defenders. This book analyses primary sources such as contemporary and near contemporary chroniclers' accounts, official records such as Pipe Rolls and Patent Rolls and 19th and 20th century secondary sources. It concludes: that the chroniclers' colourful accounts have held sway among many historians and among the general public, even when they are contradicted by empirical evidence such as the Pipe and Patent Rolls giving a strictly contemporary account of the King's actions and movements; that the precarious unity of the so called Angevin Empire made the loss of Normandy in 1204 inevitable as Anglo-Norman nobles had mostly concentrated their lands on one side of the Channel or the other, and John's attempts to regain it were therefore bound to be opposed by the barons; that John's actions (e.g. execution of hostages and other prisoners) are often viewed against a modern liberal scale of values, whereas similar actions by those of his father Henry II and brother Richard the Lionheart are often minimised or viewed against their proper historical context; and that Magna Carta's significance has been exaggerated since the Enlightenment and the birth of the modern concept of civil rights. Of course, this is not to deny John's faults, his capriciousness and probable sexual licentiousness, though he is hardly unique among English kings in this. An interesting book, and I have no doubt that King John's life and reign need a more balanced assessment than they have often received in the past. That said, I consider it probable that he did cause the murder of his nephew, Arthur (as I consider on the balance of probabilities that Richard III instigated that of his nephews). 5/5 ( )
  john257hopper | Jan 9, 2013 |
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