Daggers, money bags, clay pipes, scrolls, and torn up maps of France: putting King John on trial using a range of exhibits

Carrying out a trial of a controversial character is far from new. We have all tried it at some time.  What makes this lesson stand out is the quality of the preparation and the superb differentiation. Each pupil works in a small group with a carefully tailored role which ensures that they find the work satisfyingly difficult.  They also have props which really help the lower-attaining to focus on the key allegations against John.  Whilst some are able to describe the incriminating events that gave John his bad reputation, others explore why more recent work on the pipe rolls tells another story. By exposing the 13th century chroniclers to cross examination, able students show their ability to critically evaluate evidence, and to weigh up the arguments for and against John, using recent historians’ work.  After all, if he wasn’t as bad as he has been painted, why did the reign end in such chaos?

Learning objectives

  • All pupils can give at least three aspects of his reign and his character that were heavily criticized by the 13th century chroniclers and by Victorian historians
  • They grasp that more recent work on other records, such as the Pipe rolls, present a more
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