History KS4 / GCSE: Magna Carta

Using contemporary images and historical sites, Professor Robert Bartlett tells the story of the succession of King John in 1199.

He gives a brutal contemporary account of John’s alleged murder of his nephew Arthur, and uses a map to show the king’s loss of most of his French lands. He explains John’s quarrel with the Pope that led to England being put under an interdict from Rome in 1206, and how the king exploited this opportunity to take money and land from the church.

He suggests that John’s desire to raise money for war was the key point of conflict with his barons, and highlights the king’s treatment of William de Braose to show their lack of trust in him.

John’s revenge in apparently starving Braose’s wife and son to death in gruesome circumstances are recounted.

The king’s failed invasion of France and the barons subsequent occupation of London in 1215 are detailed, along with John’s desperate concession to sign the Magna Carta at Runnymede.

The significance of this contract between king and subject, which limited the king’s absolute power, established a law of the land and the right to justice, are discussed.

This clip is taken from the original BBC Two series, The Plantagenets.

PLEASE NOTE: THIS CLIP CONTAINS DESCRIPTIONS OF VIOLENCE THAT SOME PUPILS MIGHT FIND UPSETTING. TEACHER REVIEW IS RECOMMENDED PRIOR TO USE IN CLASS.

Teacher Notes

After viewing this clip, your pupils could study a version of the charter suitable for 14-16 year-olds and create their own version.

Alternatively, they might create one for their school balancing pupil rights and responsibilities against those of their teachers.

Pupils could identify the clauses most significant for limiting the royal power and enshrining the nobles' rights. Then, they could consider how far the charter was a liberation for all English people at the time.

Curriculum Notes

This clip will be relevant for teaching history at KS4 / GCSE in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and National 4, National 5 and Higher in Scotland.

More from The Plantagenets

The rise of the Plantagenets
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The birth of parliament
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Edward I, the Welsh and the Scots
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The Peasants' Revolt
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The fall of the Plantagenets
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