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King John


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Lackland 2. Ireland, 1185 3. Brother in Arms 4. Troublesome Brother 5. Winner Takes All 6. Retreat to the Citadel 7. Inside the Citadel 8. The Citadel Under Siege 9. Lord of the British Isles 10. The Enemy at the Gate 11. The Garrison Turns on Its Leader 12. The Walls Breached Conclusion

About the Author

Stephen Church is a professor of medieval history at the University of East Anglia and the author of The Household Knights of King John. He lives in Norwich, England.


Telegraph (UK) "Church is a scholarly and readable authority who has devoted his career to King John's reign. He picks his way through the intrigues at court, clarifying waters muddied by patchy, often contradictory sources, and acts as an important corrective to the views of 'unconvincing' chroniclers, such as Roger of Wendover." Financial Times "Magna Carta, the foundation stone of constitutional government in the English-speaking world, passed its 800th anniversary this year. Church explains with exemplary clarity how the charter emerged from the turmoil of King John's reign." Weekly Standard "A thoughtful and suggestive book, instructive for anyone interested in comparative government and essential for students of early medieval England and France." Spectator (UK) "A fair and rounded picture of the king and his reign." Roanoke Times "Church presents an analysis of a king besieged by traditions, his French neighbors, and his own family. We learn to appreciate the circumstances that caused him to act as he did, but we also come to appreciate that this king's actions set the stage for American constitutional government." Manuel Rojas Gabriel, Professor of Medieval History, University of Extremadura, Spain "Very well written, with a clear and precise style. This is a notable work of research. King John will change many of our traditional negative views concerning one of the more underestimated kings of English History. Stephen Church has taken a great step forward in giving us a more balanced understanding of John, his personality and reign, and also of the Angevin dynasty." Jay Rubenstein, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville "One of the most enigmatic figures in English history and legend, King John has found in Stephen Church a biographer able to present a richly textured portrait of both his character and his world. John's was a reign of immense conquest. From his failed conquest of Ireland, to his loss of the French lands that he had inherited from his equally ruthless but far more capable father, to his long political and spiritual war against the Pope, and finally, to the rebellion of his subjects that led to the writing of the Magna Carta-- this is a great story that Church tells with real skill and dynamism." Robert Lacey, co-author of The Year 1000: What Life Was Like at the Turn of the First Millennium, An Englishman's World "In a biography that ties together the year 1215, Magna Carta, and 'wicked' King John, Stephen Church vividly explains the dawn of democracy." Terry Jones, director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and Monty Python's The Meaning of Life, and author of Terry Jones' Medieval Lives and Who Murdered Chaucer: A Medieval History "Stephen Church has written a romp through King John's life, full of surprising and intriguing details--even though John ends up as 'a catastrophic failure.'" Sarah Gristwood, author of Blood Sisters: The Women Behind the Wars of the Roses "Riveting. A refreshingly multi-faceted look at the man who, inadvertently, gave us the Magna Carta, still a cornerstone of our democracy. Stephen Church's achievement is to look behind the baddie of many a Robin Hood story and find a ruler who didn't know he'd go down as the worst monarch in British history." Open Letters Monthly "[Church] sets himself a methodology all historians should employ, but one that's particularly hard to use when it comes to John: Church intends to tell the king's story as though we didn't all already know how it turns out. Working from the primary sources of John's life and times, Church approaches each major event in the reign from the even-keel perspective of the moment those events were happening, to the extent that such moments can be known... it works surprisingly well." McClatchy "Church plumbs historical documents, such letters and treaties to recreate the up-and-down life of John. Luckily, like all rulers, John's reign had a bureaucracy, and bureaucracies run on paper. The portrait of the king is richer for the minutiae Church has mined from archives." Publishers Weekly "Church dramatically relates the tragic twists of the king's fall in this story of power gone awry, with echoes that resonate in the present." Library Journal "Highly recommended for anyone interested in medieval history or history in general." Kirkus "Scholarly but readable... an insightful, likely definitive, biography."

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