It contains a number of original documents that I've found particularly interesting along the way.
The best way to navigate your way around this site is to use this summary and index, which is organised chronologically. Or, you can go to the 'Archive and Search' tab above.
Selected laws of Aethelbert of Kent, 601-4
The first surviving lawcodes from the Anglo Saxon period
Ine is the first king of Wessex to really stand out since Ceawlin. These laws indicate the changing nature of 7th Century kingship.
The Anglo Saxon Chronicle records the story Cynewulf, the King of Wessex, and his struggle for leadership with Cyneard and Sebright.
A biography of an early medieval ruler is something of luxury. Maybe it's far from a 'hard hitting expose of daily life on the throne' in the modern idiom, but there are things to be gleaned.
We tend to concentrate on Alfred's great comeback in 878. But it was in 870-1 that he and his brother showed for hte first time that the Danes could be beaten consistently.
This is a remarkable document and survival. It is one of the very few documents that survive from the period, and it marks the winning of a war that had seemed completely lost.
A rather magnificent contemporary poem that records a real victory that confirmed England as a nation.
The hundred court is a ubiquitous part of English history and legal system. Here's one of the earliest documents that shows how it worked.
The Coronation Oath, or Charter of Liberties as they were often called, defined the meaning of kingship - and often gave a good barometer of the time and the manner in which a king came to the throne - Henry I had to give a lot more away than did Edgar.
Poor old Anselm - he just didn't know how to cope with William Rufus. This letter lays out what he objected to - and something of his distress.
Henry arrived on the throne very unsure of himself and his rights, becuase of the claims of his elder brother. So his charter is more specific than many others, and looks to win support by reversing bad practices his brother William Rufus had made when king.
Stephen arrived on the throne without too much debate or trouble, given the problems that were later to arise. However, there would always be some doubt about his legitimacy that Matilda and Henry would later exploit. So note the bit therefore about the Royal Forests, often a barometer of the king's confidence - Stephen feels twitchy - quick to give up Henry's additional Forests. Stephen is worried, and looking for support.
Stephen would probably have reached a deal along these lines earlier if it hadn't been for his son Eustace. But after Eustace died, Stepehen's other son William seemed happy to stand aside. Henry and Stephen had fought each other to a standstill, and this treaty reflects that.
This survey gives an insight into the economic and social life of the country at this time. Notes in blue are my text.
Much more straightforward - Henry is secure in his position. So it's a straightforward OK, no evil customs, protect the church, make good laws.
The Constitutions are part of the struggle between Henry and his Archbishop - Thomas Becket - and between Church and State. Thomas initially accepted the document, deserting his bishops under massive pressure from Henry. But on the road later he recanted, and set out on the road that would lead to murder in the cathedral.
In two great court sessions, or 'Assizes', at Clarendon in 1166 and at Northampton in 1776, Henry made enormous changes to the way law was administered.
We have an unusually rich range of documents and chroniclers from Henry's time. This extract from a letter from a long standing and influential courtier, Peter of Blois, gives the best description of a monrach since Asser's Life of Alfred.
Eleanor tries to help release her hostage son Richard with some memorable phrases, as she laments both her bad fortune, and the complains about the behaviour of her Angevin brood.
Well, I think you all know what this is. This version here is annoated by me so you can understand the importance of fish weirs...
The reason why Magna Carta is Magna. The Royal forests at times covered 1/3rd of England, and their draconian laws got in the way of earning a living. So they were roundly hated by all except the king.
A document far more radical than Magna Carta, reducing the king to a cipher. One of those essential documents on the route to parliamentary democracy.
These contain the legal changes that represent the objectives of the rebels. Many of these were to survive in the form of the Statute of Marlborough 1267, being much more acceptable to Henry III and Edward I than the Provisions of Oxford.
Probably produced by a Franciscan Friar, this gives some fascinating insights into how Edeard and Simon de Montfort were seen - as well as explaining the theory of kingship that the rebels espoused.
From William Rishanger, a reliable contemporary chronicler.
A chance to hear the authentic voice of the people - mocking the 'trichard' (trickster) Richard of Cornwall.
A random selection - some welsh poetry, some quotes about how the English looked down on the Welsh, stuff like that
The Statute of Winchester was part of the legal reforms of Robert Burnell and Edward I, that basically came to an end with Robert's death. Crime was a constant problem throughout all the three Edwards reigns, not helped by the constant focus on and dislocation of war. The State gives an insight into the problems they faced, and the halting steps taken to address it.
A sample of a writ to a parlament that marked a small forward step in parliament's development
A slightly unusual one - a bit of a blank cheque you might say
The ordinances dealt both with problems remaining from Edward I's reign, and with the problem of Piers Gaveston. Although much of the clauses harked back to previous issues, there is some innovation here in the role of parliament.
This contemporary letter from Papal notary Manuele de Fieschi tells an alternative story about the death of Edward II - how he escaped from Berkeley and lived in osbcurity on the continent.