1215Ã¢Â€Â” the penultimate year of the reign of a king with the worst reputation of any in our historyÃ¢Â€Â”saw England engulfed by crisis.
Weakened by the loss of Normandy, King John faced insurrection by his disgruntled barons. With the assistance of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they drew up a list of their demands. In June, in a quiet Thames-side water-meadow, John attached his regal sealÃ¢Â€Â”under oathÃ¢Â€Â”to a charter that set limits on regal power. In return, the barons renewed their vows of fealty. Groundbreaking though Ã¢Â€Â˜Magna CartaÃ¢Â€Â™ was, it had scant immediate impact as England descended into civil war that would still be raging when John died the following year.
Dan JonesÃ¢Â€Â™s vivid account of the vicissitudes of feudal power politics and the workings of thirteenth-century government is interwoven with an exploration of the lives of ordinary people: how and where they worked, what they wore, what they ate, and what role the Church played in their lives.