Wars of the Roses - Selection

This project is intended to give an accurate and complete description of the Wars of the Roses, including the causes, the people involved, and the battles, as well as provide . The Wars of the Roses were a series of civil wars fought in medieval England from 1455 to 1487. The Wars received their name from the badges used by the two royal houses, a red rose for Lancaster and a white rose for York.

The causes of the Wars are numerous. Both houses came from the royal bloodline of King Edward III, and after the usurpation of the throne by Henry IV (of the house of Lancaster) a dynastic tension was created that remained unresolved. In addition, Henry VI, grandson of the usurper, was a weak monarch who surrounded himself with unpopular advisors, which angered those around him. Finally, bastard feudalism produced a nobility as strong as the king, with private armies of their own, allowing for action to be taken against the king.

The results of the Wars changed the English monarchy forever. The Plantagenet dynasty collapsed and was replaced with the Tudors, who famous changed England in the 16th century. The noble class was also exhausted of resources weakening their feudal power and allowing for the growth of a centralized monarchy under the Tudors. Henry VII took full advantage, putting laws in place that would prevent the rise of the nobility to their prewar power.

The selection of documentation for this project will largely comprise original, primary source materials to allow the audience to become familiar with the documentation of the time, as well as provide those interested with the ability to search original documents themselves and form their own opinions. These documents will include manuscripts from Eton College, the British Library, and the Oxford University Libraries. In addition, links will be provided to those primary sources now available online and in print-form. These documents are letters, reports of battles, and government documents – such as the will of the king, the reports of Council (as Parliament was only beginning to take shape at this time). As copyright issues and condition of documents may make digitization difficult or impossible, a sample of these materials will be placed on the website and the information and location of those not digitized will be provided should the user need to consult the documents directly. Those selected will be documents stable enough for digitization and will be made up of letters from both houses and government documents. These documents should provide information from both sides during the war, as the government changed hands several times during this period.

To supplement this material, interpretive essays will also be provided. Since material from the 15th century is limited and much is brittle and damaged, providing essays should aid the audience to understand the importance of the manuscripts and how they fit into the bigger picture. The interpretive essays will help illustrate the causes of wars and its impact on government and life at the time. All information on this website will be cited. This will allow readers to go and verify it themselves and should lend credibility to the site.

In general, this project will increase awareness of a pivotal period in English history that ushered in a time of change and ultimately impacted Europe as a whole in the 16th century, the effects of which are still seen today. Digitization of these manuscripts will also allow a greater audience access to these manuscripts without sustained use of the documents themselves and will hopefully influence future historical websites and create a demand for primary source material and citation of facts.

Information for this page was taken from the undergraduate these “The Wars of the Roses” by Meredith Gramann and Lancaster and York: The Wars of the Roses by Alison Weir.

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