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You are here Undergraduate > Single Honors History > Lancaster versus York: Power, Conflict, and Identity in The Wars of the Roses

Lancaster versus York: Power, Conflict, and Identity in The Wars of the Roses

The Wars of the Roses lasted from the 1450s through to the early sixteenth century and are among the most famous of episodes in English history. But what caused them and, crucially, why did they last as long as they did?

  • Module Coordinator:
    • Dr Simon Egan
  • Duration:
    • Michaelmas term
  • Contact Hours:
    • 2 hours per week
  • Weighting:
    • 10 ECTS
  • Assessment:
    • 100% coursework (2 essays 40% and 60%)

The series of conflicts known as the Wars of the Roses have shaped the imagination of historians and artists alike for centuries. The struggle between the rival houses of Lancaster and York has inspired literature from Shakespeare to the more recent sensation that is Game of Thrones. Its literary appeal aside, the wars were among the most bloody fought on English soil. The Lancastrians and Yorkists each mobilised troops from across their respective holdings in England, Wales, Ireland, and France, while thousands of soldiers were pitted against one another at the battles of Wakefield, Towton, and Tewkesbury. Although the conflict brought an end to one line of kings, it also ushered in a new royal dynasty: the Tudors. Henry Tudor’s victory at the battle of Bosworth in 1485 saw him established as the first Tudor monarch. However, victory did not bring him the dynastic security he craved: the wars cast a long shadow and the remainder of Henry’s reign was marred by rebellion and the looming threat of royal pretenders.

By examining key events and case studies such as the English defeat in the Hundred Years War (1453), and respective careers of Richard duke of York, Henry VI, and Henry Tudor, this module explores the origins, course, and consequences of the Wars of the Roses. Students will explore how historical writings on the wars have changed over the previous five decades and special attention will be devoted to locating the wars within the wider context of events within the British Isles as well as Continental Europe.