The Tale of Two Kings:Edward II,Robert the Bruce and Political Crisis in Early Fourteenth-Century Britain - HI6082

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This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


In 1307, Edward I in England, the most powerful ruler of northern Europe died, leaving the crown to his son, Edward II. A year before, after years of bitter anarchy and political chaos, Robert I Bruce, the arch-nemesis of the two Edwards, had been inaugurated as the King of the Scots. Edward II received a powerful and centralised state with a comparatively mighty economy, while Robert got a comparatively weak and decentralised kingdom, greatly impoverished by some a decade of fighting. In theory, at least, Robert should have subjugated himself to the over-lordship of Edward. In reality, however, the Fortune was on Robert's side. Remarkably, not only that Robert overcame Edward militarily and politically, but he also made Scotland, towards the end of his reign, a relatively united and powerful monarchy, that started playing a leading role in international European affairs. The authority of Edward, conversely, was challenged not only by Robert, but also by his own nobles and churchmen. After a series of socio-economic, political, military and familial failures, Edward II was deposed in 1327. In 1329, Robert died in dignity, leaving his country united. A year later, Edward was executed, leaving a divided country. The seminar will survey and analyse various aspects of Edward’s and Robert’s rules, with a particular attention to their individual upbringing and relationships with their family members and close kinsmen, struggle with their political opponents, military strategy and campaigns, relationships with Church, coping with the Great Famine of 1315-7, the struggle for Ireland and the question of inheritance.


Contact hours

a weekly 3 hour seminar

Method of assessment

The module will be assessed on a 40% coursework and 60% exam ratio.

The coursework component will be assessed as follows:
1) 2 x 5000 word essays, each worth 40% of the coursework mark (16% of the total mark)
2) A 15 minute presentation, worth 20% of the coursework mark (8% of the total mark)

The exam component will be assessed as follows:
Two 2-hour exam papers, each worth 50% of the examination mark (30% of the total mark)

Indicative reading

Barrow, G. (1981) Kingship and Unity. Scotland 1000-1306, Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press
Jordan, W. (1996) The Great Famine, Princeton: Princeton University Press
McNamee, C. (1997) The War of the Bruces, East Linton: Tuckwell
Nusbacher, Ar. (2005) 1314, Bannockburn, Stroud: Tempus
Penman, M. (2014) Robert the Bruce, New Haven: Yale University Press
Phillips, S. (2010) Edward II, New Haven: Yale University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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