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King John

King John

An Underrated King

By Graham E. Seel

Through contextual analysis and by reassessing the chronicle evidence, Graham E. Seel presents a compelling reevaluation of the reign of King John.

Paperback, 244 Pages


August 2012

£12.99, $22.95

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About This Book

Through contextual analysis and by reassessing the chronicle evidence, ‘King John: An Underrated King’ presents a compelling reevaluation of the reign of King John, England’s most maligned sovereign. With its thought-provoking analysis of the key issues of John’s reign, such as the loss of the French territories, British achievement, Magna Carta, relations with the church, and civil war, the volume presents an engaging argument for rehabilitating King John’s reputation. Each chapter features both narrative and contextual analysis, and is prefaced by a timeline outlining the key events of the period. The volume also contains an array of maps and diagrams, as well as a collection of useful study questions.


‘King John is one of the most interesting and controversial figures in English history, provoking extreme responses from both contemporaries and modern historians. The general opinion is that John was a bad king, perhaps the worst to have worn the English crown. In this volume Graham Seel reviews the sources for, and the historiography of, John’s reign in order to understand how this poor reputation has been acquired. He explores its key events and decisions, and attempts to place them within the context of contemporary expectations and norms. The result is a sympathetic reinterpretation that offers a well-informed yet accessible introductory survey, and which provides a readable and critical summary of all the main arguments. It will serve as a useful and attractive starting point for the general interest reader, students of A-level history, and first year undergraduates.’ —Professor Mark Bailey, University of East Anglia

‘This is an outstanding new account of King John and his reign: it is very readable and accessible, and it convincingly challenges the traditional, negative view of John. Instead, John emerges as an accomplished and effective ruler who was dogged by ill luck rather than an evil personality. Graham Seel’s book is thoroughly researched and beautifully written: it represents an important addition to the literature on this troubled period.’ —Dr David Smith, Selwyn College, University of Cambridge

Author Information

Graham E. Seel studied history at the University of St Andrews, 1982–1986. From there he proceeded to Cambridge University where he undertook a PGCE, for which he was awarded a Distinction. He has published widely on English history, and he is currently Head of History at St Paul’s School, London.


Anthem Perspectives in History

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; List of Figures; Chapter 1 Outline of the Reign; Chapter 2 John in the Shadows, 1167–1199; Chapter 3 An ‘Imperial’ Inheritance?; Chapter 4 War of Succession and the Loss of Continental Territories, 1199–1204; Chapter 5 Efforts to Regain the French Territories, 1205–1214; Chapter 6 The British Perspective: Scotland, Ireland and Wales, 1199–1214; Chapter 7 Sacerdotium and Regnum, 1199–1214; Chapter 8 Administration, Justice and Finance; Chapter 9 Civil War: A False Start, 1215; Chapter 10 Civil War Renewed, 1215–1216; Chapter 11 Conclusion: Will the Real King John Please Stand Up?; Appendix; Notes; Bibliography; Further Reading; Questions; Index

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