Was King John a good king or bad king?


Was King John a good or bad king?

This often debated topic is a popular lesson in Key Stage 3 and Primary History. These teachers resources include source material, classification tasks, writing frames and a timeline of King John’s reign. They help students to understand the range of issues a medieval monarch was responsible for and structures their reasoning as to his merits as a ruler.


Was King John a good king or bad king?

This is a popular topic of discussion and heated debate. It is also a mainstay of many curriculum models at Key Stage 3, whilst being a possible study in Primary History. King John’s regency and reign are complex. An era of Crusades, Civil Wars and European power plays. One in which the legal system and administrative structures of government was being developed. A time when the ruling class, including the Royal family, were often at loggerheads with one another. This teachers resource aims to break down some of the key issues surrounding the rule of King John. It guides pupils through extracting information from a selection of sources and helps them to structure an answer to the question of whether or not John was a good or bad king. 

Included in this pack are:

A timeline of key events in the regency and reign of John.

Sources about King John’s rule.

A writing frame to assist pupils when structuring an answer.

Categorisation task that models the extraction of information from source material.

Teaching suggestions:

Pupils will have preconceived ideas about what constitutes a good or bad monarch. Discuss these and create a word bank that pupils can refer to when assessing source material. This should place and emphasis on historical terminology.

Create a timeline of kings, queens and other rulers that the pupils have studied. This could incorporate references to work completed in previous years, or at Primary School. What do pupils remember about these leaders? Do they think that they were good, effective rulers, or weak and ineffectual ones? This provides a basis for comparison with King John and, if Richard I is included, context.

What makes a good medieval monarch? Simply discuss this question. You can refer to issues that monarchs would need to deal with and begin to build a bank of examples of things that did, or didn’t, work well.

The writing frame is intended to support students with the structure of an answer. It is a literacy aid. Historical terminology, referencing of sources and ways of addressing source material in an extended response can be built into teacher input to allow more developed responses.

You can read our biography of King John here. To enable comparison with his brother, Richard I and other monarchs of the Plantagenet era, you can find information about each of their reigns on this page.

King John is famously linked with the Barons War and the subsequent signing of Magna Carta.

HistoryExtra article – Why ‘Bad King John’ was actually good.

Primary History. Our resources and articles written specifically for the Primary School History curriculum.


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