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The Wars of the Roses: Warfare, Politics and Society in Late Medieval England (Online) (10 credit points)

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

The Wars of the Roses took place in England during the fifteenth century, involving a number of fascinating personalities, including Edward IV, Warwick ‘the Kingmaker’ and Richard III. This course explores the causes of the wars, their outcomes and the subsequent impact on society, and their international significance.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

Students will need to be able to confidently use videoconferencing software and be comfortable with using websites.

Special Information

In order to participate in this course, you will need access to a computer with a speaker, microphone and an internet connection.

Content of Course

1. Setting the Scene: England in the Fifteenth Century

An introduction to fifteenth-century England and its people, with an emphasis on the structures of society.

2. How do we know? Exploring Medieval Sources

An introduction to the study of medieval sources, which will be used extensively throughout the course. We will look at extracts from a wide range of written sources, including chronicles, letters and records, as well as considering other types of evidence.

3. Prelude to Conflict: The Reign of Henry VI

The reign of Henry VI and the causes of the Wars of the Roses. We will consider the role of important personalities, as well as discussing some of the long term factors (including social and economic issues) that may have pushed England towards civil war.

4. The First War: 1455-61

Events in the period 1455-61, from the first Battle of St Albans to the coronation of Edward IV. The second half of the class will focus on the Battle of Towton, the largest and bloodiest battle of the wars, including some discussion of the archaeological evidence.

5. Fortune’s Wheel: 1461-71

The first reign of Edward IV, the ‘Readeption’ of Henry VI and the second war of 1469-71. This class will provide an opportunity to consider the international dimensions of the Wars of the Roses, including England’s relations with Burgundy, France and Scotland.

6. Margaret of Anjou: The Bad Queen?

Does Margaret of Anjou deserve to be remembered as ‘the bad queen’, or has she been unfairly maligned? In this session we will take a closer look at Margaret’s life and reputation, exploring medieval and modern interpretations of her story.

7. Order Restored? The Second Reign of Edward IV

The second reign of Edward IV, from 1471 to 1483. We will also consider the role of Edward’s youngest brother, Richard, and his career as ‘Lord of the North’.

8. The Crisis of 1483 and the ‘Princes in the Tower’

Events following the death of Edward IV, and the brief reign of his eldest son, Edward V. We will discuss the reasons why Richard III chose to depose his nephew, whether he was justified in doing so, and the subsequent fate of Edward V and his brother.

9. Richard III

Richard’s attempts to establish himself as king, and his defeat and death at the Battle of Bosworth. There will also be an opportunity to discuss the impact of the modern excavations at Leicester, and the discovery of Richard’s remains.

10. The End of the Wars?

Discussion of the reign of Henry VII. We will move on to consider the long term impact of the Wars of the Roses, and the place of the wars in British history.

Teaching method(s)

This course will be taught through a combination of available materials and live online sessions. 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • Analyse the causes of the Wars of the Roses.

  • Describe the subsequent course of warfare and political events, with an emphasis on the careers of key personalities.

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the political, military and social structures of late medieval England, allowing students to situate personal stories within a broader context.

  • Assess the impact of the Wars of the Roses on English society.

  • Demonstrate the above learning outcomes in the assessment.


Core Readings


  • Grummitt, D., 2012. A Short History of the Wars of the Roses. London: I.B. Tauris.


  • Carpenter, C., 1997. The Wars of the Roses: Politics and the Constitution in England, c.1437-1509. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Hicks, M.A., 2014. The Wars of the Roses 1455-1485. [e-book] Oxford: Osprey.

  • Pollard, A.J., 2013. The Wars of the Roses. 3rd ed. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

  • Santiuste, D., 2011. Edward IV and the Wars of the Roses. Barnsley: Pen and Sword.

Web Sources

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: [available via DiscoverEd or with a public library card]

The Discovery of Richard III:

Reflections of the Yorkist Realm:

Website of the Richard III Society (UK Branch):


10 credit courses have one assessment. Normally, the assessment is a 2000 word essay, worth 100% of the total mark, submitted by week 12. To pass, students must achieve a minimum of 40%. There are a small number of exceptions to this model which are identified in the Studying for Credit Guide.

Studying for Credit

If you choose to study for credit you will need to allocate significant time outwith classes for coursework and assessment preparation. Credit points gained from this course can count towards the Certificate of Higher Education.


If you have questions regarding the course or enrolment, please contact COL Reception at Paterson's Land by email or by phone 0131 650 4400.

Student support

If you have a disability, learning difficulty or health condition which may affect your studies, please let us know by ticking the 'specific support needs' box on your course application form. This will allow us to make appropriate adjustments in advance and in accordance with your rights under the Equality Act 2010. For more information please visit the Student Support section of our website.