The Battle of Towton

The Battle of Towton is one of the most underrated clashes in English history. Decisive at the time, its significance pales with the subsequent defeat of Richard III and the end of Yorkist rule at the Battle of Bosworth. The battle is well worth teaching though as it is important for many reasons. 

Why teach the Battle of Towton?

  1. The sheer size of the Battle. It was huge. Far bigger than any other post-Roman battle fought on English soil. Indeed, the estimated number of dead at Towton exceed the numbers thought to have even participated in the much more famous Battles of Hastings, or Bosworth.
  2. It was fought in a snow storm. Think about that for a moment. It is a medieval set-piece battle fought in swirling snow. If that doesn’t get pupils thinking about the nature of warfare, not much will.
  3. Handguns. Yes, that’s right, they used handguns in this medieval battle. More formally known as handcannon, the oldest archaeological finds of such weapons in England were extracted from the Towton battlefield. It is not the first battle in which they were documented, that was at St. Albans, but the evidence is there and excellent documentary footage exists based on the find.
  4. Regime change. The Wars of the Roses were a little topsy turvy in terms of kingship but this was the first Battle that resulted in regime change.
  5. You can analyse the bigger picture as you would with a more modern Battle. It isn’t as simple as one decisive set-piece battle, it is a sequence of events in the build-up and what would nowadays be considered to be a campaign and mopping up exercise: ideal for looking at change and continuity in warfare.
  6. The quality of Archaeological Finds. Already noted are the remnants of handcannon but the site has had a number of well-documented finds. Most famously, the burial pits.

Want to learn more? Try this online course on about the Wars of the Roses.

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