Over the next year I will be conducting research into the Battle of Towton. The research will be in preparation for a Master in History dissertation. Focussing on the impact of the battle on the local area (West Riding) I hope that it will lend itself to materials that can be shared with colleagues. The Wars of the Roses and the Battle of Towton are often skimmed over at Key Stage 3. Time constraints are one issue, resources another, depth knowledge of the wars and the consequences another reason.
Battle of Towton Resources / Ideas
A narrative history of the Battle of Towton can be found on Schoolshistory.org.uk. This history was compiled as I studied the Wars of the Roses through the University of Oxford Department of Continuing Education. The narrative is accompanied by source materials and references to further reading on the topic. It is a good place to go to top up knowledge of the Battle of Towton itself.
One of the key issues around the Battle of Towton is the sheer weight of numbers involved. A battle on this scale is quite hard to imagine. Pupils in school are often given basic facts about battles. For Towton, it is possible to get them using source material to draw conclusions in much the same way that academics would. The casualty figures are a case in point. The contemporary sources provide several numbers. They are large, very large. They are all believed to exaggerate the scale of the Battle. Pupils can look at these sources and make up their own minds about how many casualties they think there was. There is no ‘right’ answer to it, we are highly unlikely to ever know the real number with any degree of accuracy.
There is Battlefield Archaeology to make use of. Much work has been done on site visits to castles, museums, stately homes etc. Yet few references are around for Key Stage 3-5 battlefield archaeology. The Battle of Towton has several excellent resources that can be utilised for a classroom investigation, or site based inquiry. These could be based upon the findings of the University of Bradford’s Archaeologists, or make use of the ongoing work on the layout of the battlefield by the Battlefields Trust.
Medieval Warfare is often taught as individual battles, or wars. Towton has been interpreted as a campaign. This makes for an interesting study of the changing nature of warfare at the time. Was Towton actually a campaign, similar to more modern ones? Are Ferrybridge and Dingtindale part of the same Battle/Campaign or totally separate entities?
Physical Geography is key to understanding the Wars of the Roses in the North. This compares well with other Medieval wars within England. Control of Yorkshire is important. Control of specific parts of Yorkshire even more important. This is due to the physical geography of the North of England. The movement of troops is hampered by the Pennines and the combination of the Rivers Aire, Calder, Humber and Hull. Mapping exercises help to explain aspects of the Wars of the Roses.