As you may or may not know – but as I’m sure you’re eager to learn – I have an exam on June 4. Since October, I’ve been muddling through A200 Exploring History Medieval to Modern for my Open University degree, and the sixth and final essay was submitted off at the beginning of this month. I have two and a half weeks to go before I sit down in front of the exam paper, so in that time I suppose I need to make sure I remember the past seven months-worth of learning!
I’ve never been very good at revision. When I was in school, I tended to rely on the fact that I have a very good memory, as I didn’t know where to begin. I mean, is there a ‘way’ to revise? I don’t know. I think I’ve heard people talk like there is. But the idea of making notes about stuff I already made notes about once seems a bit daft, to put it mildly!
To this end, anyway, I have decided that the best thing I can do is just look over all of the course material once more, and try to assimilate that into some sort of coherency. Hm.
Today, anyway, I have been looking back over the first of the six blocks that made up the module, the fascinating ‘England, France and Burgundy in the fifteenth century’ – and I mean that with no trace of sarcasm, as I really enjoyed this one. Dealing with basically the second half of the Hundred Years War, and leading right up to the Wars of the Roses, it was a truly interesting block.
For one thing, I didn’t know that France at this time was largely a collection of duchies without formal centralised control – that was only brought about by Charles VII once he had expelled the English from Normandy and Gascony (though Calais would remain in English hands until the next century). It was really interesting seeing how the modern state of France was formed out of this, as it’s easy to forget (I think) that England is actually the oldest centralised state, and most of Europe caught up over the last five hundred years or so. The adventures of Charles VII, Henry V, John Beaufort and of course, Joan of Arc, really do deserve wider currency!
The best thing about this block, though, was the Burgundian bits. The Duchy of Burgundy was originally a vassal duchy of the Kingdom of France, but the dukes had increased their power-base into being almost a kingdom-within-a-kingdom. Philip the Good (it seems all the Dukes of Burgundy had awesome nicknames) made some shrewd marriages that landed him territory in modern-day Belgium and the Netherlands, increasing his influence out from under that of his vassal lord, and his son, Charles the Bold (see?), was taking steps to join up the two areas into a homogenous duchy when he was killed in 1477. While I suppose it’s not technically a state, seeing the territorial expansion of Burgundy in this period is nevertheless really fascinating!
Up next is the Reformation, and John Calvin in Geneva…