by Thomas Asbridge, published by Penguin, (2019), 9780141989938
This book presents Richard in four clear phases of kingship: ‘absent’, ‘crusader’, ‘warrior’ and ‘legendary’. This is especially helpful in exploring the reign thematically, offering a fresher perspective than the traditional narrative accounts. Asbridge looks to tease apart myth and legend, and he explores whether Richard was a ‘reckless brute’ or a ‘deft mastermind’. This goes to the heart of the debate on Richard and over a series of lessons students could gather evidence for both sides of the argument before coming to their own conclusion about Richard.
Asbridge explores the depth of Richard’s religious commitment to crusading, the argument over how far he simply exploited England for his own purposes and the extent of his military abilities. He suggests that Richard’s real driving force was chivalric expectations, not religion. He also suggests that Richard only honed his skills later in life, and that 1194–98 ‘should be recognized as the pinnacle of Richard’s military career.’ I would use this as the basis of a comparison task: students could assess the reign in two halves: 1189–93 and 1194–99. They could assemble evidence to rate Richard as a king, a military leader, a diplomat and in regard to his relations with the church.