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King John: And the Road to Magna Carta –…
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King John: And the Road to Magna Carta (vuoden 2015 painos)

– tekijä: Stephen Church (Tekijä)

JäseniäKirja-arvostelujaSuosituimmuussijaKeskimääräinen arvioMaininnat
783263,719 (3.56)1
From a renowned medieval historian comes a new biography of King John, the infamous English king whose reign led to the establishment of the Magna Carta and the birth of constitutional democracy King John (1166-1216) has long been seen as the epitome of bad kings. The son of the most charismatic couple of the middle ages, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and younger brother of the heroic crusader king, Richard the Lionheart, John lived much of his life in the shadow of his family. When in 1199 he became ruler of his family's lands in England and France, John proved unequal to the task of keeping them together. Early in his reign he lost much of his continental possessions, and over the next decade would come perilously close to losing his English kingdom, too. In King John, medieval historian Stephen Church argues that John's reign, for all its failings, would prove to be a crucial turning point in English history. Though he was a masterful political manipulator, John's traditional ideas of unchecked sovereign power were becoming increasingly unpopular among his subjects, resulting in frequent confrontations. Nor was he willing to tolerate any challenges to his authority. For six long years, John and the pope struggled over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a clash that led to the king's excommunication. As king of England, John taxed his people heavily to fund his futile attempt to reconquer the lands lost to the king of France. The cost to his people of this failure was great, but it was greater still for John. In 1215, his subjects rose in rebellion against their king and forced upon him a new constitution by which he was to rule. The principles underlying this constitution--enshrined in the terms of Magna Carta--would go on to shape democratic constitutions across the globe, including our own. In this authoritative biography, Church describes how it was that a king famous for his misrule gave rise to Magna Carta, the blueprint for good governance.… (lisätietoja)
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näyttää 3/3
This was the first of several titles on my reading list for my studies on early English Feudalism, the government and the Magna Carta. In this regard I found it useful. I understand some reviewers have found it slow or dry, and this may be the case, but perhaps it was intended to be more academic than written for a popular audience. It should be stated early on that this book is not primarily focused on the Magna Carta, but more on the life, political and military career of John as youngest son, heir of Richard and eventually King.

It is about his relations and interactions with family members and the nobility, the circumstances and decisions which shaped his career, and the events that led up to him losing his hold on power, and dying a virtual fugitive in his own kingdom. It is not a wholly negative appraisal, for it emerges that there were times when the King genuinely wanted to do what he thought to be the right thing- to fight to retake Normandy, and his subjects seemed to regard him as a promising ruler at the beginning.

The passage on the death of Prince Arthur also proved enlightening- John almost certainly did kill him, but it appears that by the teens dealings with Phillip of France to cede land or do homage for it, John and his adherents considered him to be giving away the family inheritance, and so guilty of treason. Not that this justifies the action, but it helps the audience to get an impression of what might have happened and why.
It also sheds a useful light on the workings of the political and administrative system of the age- and why it was so difficult for one person to resist the King. To be successful, there had to be a large scale rebellion.
Perhaps the book fails to draw any definitive conclusions about John’s character and legacy, but does help to demonstrate maybe not all the misfortune of the early 1200s can be attributed wholly to John’s tyranny. The loss of Normandy proved disastrous for England- an event John attempted to fight against and to resolve, but the raising of revenue by taxation, always unpopular, seems to have been particularly problematic and controversial, leading some of the abuses later mentioned in the Magna Carta.

Overall The Making of a Tyrant was a useful and pertinent title for useful contribution, amongst several, to the scholarship on this period. The bibliography and other such might be of more interest to researchers than general readers, but I would still recommend it to those interested in the style, approach and scope of the work.

I received a free copy of this book directly from the publisher for review. This did not affect my opinions, which were freely expressed and entirely my own.
( )
  Medievalgirl | Oct 4, 2016 |
This is a great story of the English King who inadvertently caused his nobles to write up the Magna Carta. We should all read a book about the Magna Carta in 2015, the 800th anniversary of the cornerstone of our liberties and freedoms and this is a lively entertaining tale. ( )
  bhowell | Jul 26, 2015 |
A worthy, but somewhat pedestrian account of the life and reign of England's most despised king. In this the 800th anniversary year of Magna Carta, interest in King John has been much in evidence, and there sure sure to be a swag of books about him, his reign, and the significance of the Great Charter. Its to be hoped that the next books are just a bit more lively than this one. Meticulously researched, well organised and put together, but never really fleshes out John's character, and he remains really just a depiction of the documents that recorded his reign. I never have much time for people who say history is boring, but I can probably understand where are they coming from when I read books like this. I actually did enjoy this book and found it very interesting and informative, but then I am accustomed to reading the driest of academic texts and finding them interesting too. Content-wise, this book is excellent. Church book-ends the story with the two things most associated in the modern mind with John - one fictional, one factual. They are, of course, Robin Hood and Magna Carta. He disposes of the Robin Hood myth in one terse paragraph in the introduction, pointing out that John was not associated with the Robin Hood legend until more than two centuries after his death, the creation of a writer from the Tudor era. He then deals with the Magna Carta properly, in its chronological place at the end of the book, coming as it did towards the end of John's life. In between, the story basically deals with John's catastrophic dealings with France, in which he managed to lose virtually all of the territories he held across the Channel. Despite the title of the book, Church never does really nail down whether or not John was a tyrant, although the question of whether he was a disaster as a king seems quite comprehensively settled. As I said, I did find this book worth reading and interesting, but whether it would appeal to a wider audience, I'm just not sure. ( )
  drmaf | Apr 17, 2015 |
näyttää 3/3
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From a renowned medieval historian comes a new biography of King John, the infamous English king whose reign led to the establishment of the Magna Carta and the birth of constitutional democracy King John (1166-1216) has long been seen as the epitome of bad kings. The son of the most charismatic couple of the middle ages, Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine, and younger brother of the heroic crusader king, Richard the Lionheart, John lived much of his life in the shadow of his family. When in 1199 he became ruler of his family's lands in England and France, John proved unequal to the task of keeping them together. Early in his reign he lost much of his continental possessions, and over the next decade would come perilously close to losing his English kingdom, too. In King John, medieval historian Stephen Church argues that John's reign, for all its failings, would prove to be a crucial turning point in English history. Though he was a masterful political manipulator, John's traditional ideas of unchecked sovereign power were becoming increasingly unpopular among his subjects, resulting in frequent confrontations. Nor was he willing to tolerate any challenges to his authority. For six long years, John and the pope struggled over the appointment of the Archbishop of Canterbury, a clash that led to the king's excommunication. As king of England, John taxed his people heavily to fund his futile attempt to reconquer the lands lost to the king of France. The cost to his people of this failure was great, but it was greater still for John. In 1215, his subjects rose in rebellion against their king and forced upon him a new constitution by which he was to rule. The principles underlying this constitution--enshrined in the terms of Magna Carta--would go on to shape democratic constitutions across the globe, including our own. In this authoritative biography, Church describes how it was that a king famous for his misrule gave rise to Magna Carta, the blueprint for good governance.

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