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Online course

England in the Time of King Richard III

Explore 15th century England through archaeology, history and literature. Learn more about Richard III’s discovery and reburial.


  • Access to the course for its duration + 14 days, regardless of when you join (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • No access to course tests
  • No certificate


  • Unlimited access to the course, for as long as it exists on FutureLearn (this includes access to articles, videos, peer review steps, quizzes)
  • Access to course tests
  • A Certificate of Achievement when you complete the course

Find out more

England in the Time of King Richard III

Why join the course?

The discovery of the skeleton of Richard III in a Leicester car park - and the recent revelations of an infidelity within his family’s bloodline - have made headline news around the world.

In this free online course, a team of scholars from the University of Leicester address a broad set of themes about the England Richard would have inhabited in the 15th century and look back at his rediscovery and reinterment.

Explore the Wars of the Roses

The political scene in the 15th century was dominated by savage dynastic warfare – the Wars of the Roses - in which allegiances and power shifted among an aristocratic clique, with devastating outcomes.

The century also saw the abandonment of many villages through general population decline, and a shift towards greater use of the land for pasture farming. But demand for labour meant that the prosperity of working people rose, and towards the end of the century, the introduction of printing transformed access to literacy and books.

Each week, we’ll address a different perspective of this period:

  • medieval warfare
  • the lives of peasants and farmers
  • food and culture
  • death and commemoration
  • reading and the introduction of printing.

The rediscovery and reinterment of Richard III

We’ll look at how historians and archaeologists have reconstructed Richard’s road to Bosworth - the battle in which he died - and how one of England’s most famous kings came to be buried in Leicester.

This will help you understand Richard III’s reinterment, as his remains were taken to Bosworth, through the villages connected with his last battle, and finally laid to rest in Leicester Cathedral in March 2015.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 8 secondsAt Leicester, we've got a lot of experience of delivering distance learning courses. We run a full set of programmes at masters and undergraduate level. And we've been doing this for a long time. So we think we understand the needs of distance learning students. This course is based around the Wars of the Roses. And it draws on the expertise of the team that was brought together in the aftermath of the discovery of the grave of Richard III in Leicester. This includes experts from forensic engineering through to art historians, English experts, archaeologists, and historians. So drawing on this expertise, we've developed a course that we think will really enhance your interest and understanding of the period.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 seconds The course is divided into six episodes, each of which deals with a different aspect of mediaeval life. And the themes covered range from mediaeval warfare through to the mediaeval landscape, death and commemoration, and the creation of texts, particularly the introduction of printing. This course will enhance your understanding of the period and also the way in which scholars go about identifying the questions that need to be answered and bringing data to bear on them. There are many controversies about the period. And we hope that by the end of the course, you will be armed with enough information and understanding to formulate your own views on the credibility or otherwise of some of the theories around.

Skip to 1 minute and 22 seconds When you put together a team of experts who understand the poetry of the period, who realise why certain things were recorded and others not, when people can bring their understanding of technology to bear on the issue, you get a rounded picture and understanding that goes far beyond just facts. And that's why I think it's all really, very exciting.

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

  • Describe the sequence of events and the key players in the Wars of the Roses, and explain the ways in which reputations are created
  • Explain the nature of armed combat in the middle ages
  • Describe the way English farming was organised before the Black Death
  • Identify 15th century changes in the landscape and the benefits to ordinary people of the new developments
  • Explore the evidence for the scale of literacy in England before printed books
  • Describe how typefaces were first created and how rapidly printed books spread, and to whom
  • Summarise medieval beliefs about the afterlife
  • Identify the types of late medieval burial, burial customs, commemoration and memorial monuments
  • Identify what foods were, and were not, available in the 15th century and the differences in the diet of rich and poor
  • Describe the ways in which people cooked and ate at the table
  • Reflect on some of the reasons why the discovery of Richard III has aroused such international interest
  • Interpret the range of evidence that makes the identification of Richard III's body convincing

Who is the course for?

Anyone interested in medieval England or the recent discovery and reburial of Richard III will find something to fuel their interest here. No prior knowledge or expertise are needed.

Who will you learn with?

Deirdre O'Sullivan

Senior Lecturer in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester.

Who developed the course?

The University of Leicester is a leading research led university with a strong tradition of excellence in teaching. It is consistently ranked amongst the top 20 universities in the United Kingdom.

Buy a personalised, digital and printed certificate and transcript

You can buy a Certificate of Achievement for this course — a personalised certificate and transcript in both digital and printed formats, to prove what you’ve learnt. A Statement of Participation is also available for this course.

Certificate of Achievement + transcript £49.00

Statement of Participation £39.00

Estimate prices in preferred currency

Charges to your account will be made in GBP. Prices in local currency are provided as a convenience and are only an estimate based on current exchange rates.