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The Anarchy

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the period of bloody civil war that took place in 12th-century England.

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss The Anarchy, the civil war that took place in mid-twelfth century England. The war began as a succession dispute between the Empress Matilda, daughter of Henry I, and her cousin, Stephen of Blois. On Henry's death Stephen seized the English throne and held it for a number of years before Matilda wrestled it from him, although she was chased out of London before she could be crowned.

The Anarchy dragged on for nearly twenty years and is so called because of the chaos and lawlessness that characterised the period. Yet only one major battle ever took place, the Battle of Lincoln in 1141, and any other fighting associated with the conflict was fairly localised. This has led historians to question the accuracy of labelling the civil war as The Anarchy, a name only bestowed on the era in the 19th century. But why did Matilda fail to become the monarch, and what impact did it have on the way England was ruled in centuries to come?


John Gillingham
Emeritus Professor of History at the London School of Economics and Political Science

Louise Wilkinson
Reader in Medieval History at Canterbury Christ Church University

David Carpenter
Professor of Medieval History at Kings College London.

Producer: Natalia Fernandez.

Available now

43 minutes

Last on

Thu 1 Nov 2012 21:30


J. Bradbury, ‘Stephen and Matilda: The Civil War of 1139-1153’ (Sutton, 2005)


David Carpenter, ‘The Penguin History of Britain: The Struggle for Mastery: Britain 1066-1284’ (Penguin, 2004)


Marjorie Chibnall, ‘The Empress Matilda: Queen Consort, Queen Mother and Lady of the English’ (Wiley-Blackwell, 1993)


David Crouch, ‘The Reign of King Stephen, 1135-54’ (Longman, 2000)


R. H. C. Davis, ‘King Stephen, 1135-54’ (Longman, 1990)


John Gillingham, ‘The Angevin Empire’ (Bloomsbury, 2000)


Edmund King, ‘King Stephen’ (Yale University Press, 2012)


Donald Matthew, ‘King Stephen’ (Hambledon, 2007)


Keith Stringer, ‘The Reign of Stephen: Kingship, Warfare and Government in Twelfth-Century England’ (Routledge, 1993)


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