Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta” as Want to Read:
King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

King John: Treachery and Tyranny in Medieval England: The Road to Magna Carta

4.09  ·  Rating Details ·  203 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
A rousing and authoritative new biography of the notorious King John, by Wall Street Journal bestselling author Marc Morris.

King John is one of those historical characters who needs little in the way of introduction. If readers are not already familiar with him as the tyrant whose misgovernment gave rise to Magna Carta, we remember him as the villain in the stories of Robi
Hardcover, 1st US Edition, 400 pages
Published October 15th 2015 by Pegasus Books (first published March 12th 2015)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about King John, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about King John

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Richard Thomas
Oct 18, 2015 Richard Thomas rated it it was amazing
Shelves: english-history
This is an absorbing life of King John who is generally and rightly regarded as one of England's worse kings. Marc Morris reviews his reign and his earlier life in detail which reveals John's weaknesses and dishonesty. He is fair in describing the King's good points but sets these against the full picture of a cruel man with weaknesses who had a singular capability to make a bad situation worse. Richard I comes out reasonably well as does Eleanor of Aquitaine; John does not but finishing the ...more
Blair Hodgkinson
As expected, Marc Morris presents a well-researched and detailed study of the life and reign of King John. Morris sifts effectively through often-conflicting chronicles (both contemporary and subsequent) and scholarship to support his conclusions about the king's character and style of kingship.

The text of Magna Carta is included. The book's emphasis on the importance of this event in John's reign is in the proper perspective of his time. (It was only later in history that the charter won great
Whilst Richard III has found his supporters in ever-growing numbers in recent years, there has been no such reevaluation or redemption for England's other black legend, King John. And, as Marc Morris ably demonstrates, there is good reason for this. Richard III didn't reign for long enough for any real evaluation of his reign, and his track record prior to his accession was one of proven loyalty and steadfastness. Richard III was damned by history effectively because he lost at Bosworth - had he ...more
Marcus Pailing
Jun 11, 2016 Marcus Pailing rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent, as I expected.

(It also made me actually *read* Magna Carta, the whole way through, for the first time!)
Kristi Richardson
Oct 09, 2016 Kristi Richardson rated it it was amazing
“To no one will We sell, to no one will We deny or delay, right or justice." Magna Carta

I grew up with the evil King John from the Disney “Robin Hood” or the other tales told of King John as the evil King that ruled when Robin Hood was around. I also remember him as the pimply youth from “The Lion in Winter.” Mr. Morris shows us that he was much more complicated than we have been told. He also did not live in the same time as Robin Hood per scholars.

This is King John’s story. He was not England
Oct 30, 2015 Larry rated it really liked it
Though sometimes disjointed (driven by flashbacks as it is), Morris's portrait of King John, one of England's several truly inadequate kings, is both complete (as far as the sources allow) and fair. It's hard to be patient with John. Even if he wasn't the figure many of us grew up detesting (the Prince John of the Robin Hood movies), he lost the English holdings in France and engaged in conflict with his nobles that he couldn't win. His reign did result in the Magna Carta, but it also led to ...more
Oct 31, 2015 Bev rated it it was amazing
A first rate biography and for those of us brought up on a diet of Errol Flynn and other versions of Robin Hood, an eye opener as well. Someone once described John to me as a "total shite" and they were not far off the mark, he was a complete villain, but a complex one and also an unfathomable one, because again and again you are left open mouthed trying to work out his motivations. I get that he was money hungry and possibly power hungry, but he had enough of both if he had been sensible, but ...more
Jim Kerr
Jan 02, 2016 Jim Kerr rated it it was amazing
An incredible portrait of a terribly flawed man who happened to be a king. John is shown to be ruthlessly and unnecessarily cruel, incapable of even the most basic personal relationships, and a completly inept politician. John endlessly dissembled and had frequent changes of mind, often with disastrous results. One wonders what else we would know about him if John had lived in a time with additional documentary evidence.
Oct 24, 2015 Kimberly rated it liked it
My one complaint about this book is the extensive flashbacks the author uses. I found that they made the book, especially at the beginning, more confusing than helpful. Otherwise, the book is dense but interesting.
Richard K
Mar 05, 2016 Richard K rated it really liked it
Liked the book. Very insightful. It really shows John as a complex but ultimately very flawed individual
Oct 20, 2015 Lina rated it really liked it
Good, but a little dry at first a good introduction to this quite infamous queen.
Mercedes Rochelle
Nov 28, 2016 Mercedes Rochelle rated it really liked it
King John is one of those villains who seems too wicked to be true. It was bad enough that he squeezed his countrymen again and again to fund his fruitless wars. But no man or woman was safe if caught by his displeasure, and even his contemporaries were horrified at his cruelty; starving his victims in dungeons seemed to be his favorite retribution. He behaved with little or no regard for consequences, until caught in the web of his own misbehavior. Once forced to retreat from an intolerable ...more
I found this a hard book to read about a hard and interesting subject King John.

What I found highly interesting about King John was not just that he was the king for whom the Magna Carta was written. The English held large territories in modern France (which I did not know and which was lost under King John). King John was the first English Lord of Ireland and he meddled in the affairs of Wales and Scotland. Most significantly he had many fights with the Pope and he wanted to control the English
Annika Hipple
Nov 09, 2016 Annika Hipple rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, biography
Although not as weighty as his earlier works on the Norman conquest and Edward I, this is another interesting by one of the best current British popular historians. It loses a star because the split chronology of the first half didn't really work for me; even though I was familiar with the events, I found the shift between different chapters jarring. Once the two timelines met, the narrative flowed much better. As in his earlier books, Morris writes well, with clarity and style (and without the ...more
Aaron Fielding
Oct 30, 2016 Aaron Fielding rated it it was amazing
Well written account of King John's life which Marc Morris has brought to life as if you are actually there through strong story telling narrative while delivering a rich content of facts without getting lost in all the jargon. The chronological jumbling of the earlier chapters made for a refreshing change in historical accounts, which tend to regurgitate the same introductions about the previous kings and how the main player was brought up (often with little detail when the main player is the ...more
Nov 16, 2016 Marie rated it liked it
Well. This one was entirely too timely. But I love Morris's style and delivery--it's like you're in his classroom, and the passion for the subject and for scholarship is contagious.
Oct 01, 2016 Barry added it
Shelves: history
My 1,000th goodreads book.
Andrew Fish
May 06, 2015 Andrew Fish rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With the eight hundredth anniversary of Magna Carta upon us it's hardly surprising that a number of historians have books on the subject out. It's a period of history that many people think they know a lot about, but many of those many people would be wrong.

Because one thing that comes across in Marc Morris' exploration of King John's reign is the paucity of the sources. His books on Edward I and the Norman Conquest were rich with different points of view on the events, but fewer contemporaries
Duncan Wilson
May 01, 2015 Duncan Wilson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bad King John he was awful and in Marc Morris’ brilliant researched book you too will come to learn just how truly awful he was.

As details of his early life are fragmented so are the early chapters of this book, detailing events during his reign and comparison alternating with earlier decades in order to highlight comparisons or causes of later events.

Over 300 pages detail the rise and fall of a monarch who dies with ignominy and his kingdom in virtual ruin of pretty much his own doing.
Some of
Marc Morris seems more in his element when writing about right dickheads. Yeah, Edward I was a successful king by Medieval standards, but there still people murmuring 'oh that's how you are going to invade Scotland - okay'. And you cannot get more dickhead-erish than John I - he was given the job as head villain to a story he had no part in Robin Hood. Even by the standards of the Middle Ages, a time of cruelty, John seems to stand out.

Though really this is the man that lost France. While readi
Karen Floyd
Jan 10, 2016 Karen Floyd rated it really liked it
As A. A. Milne said, "King John was not a good man - he had his little ways...." One of those little ways was a fondness for starving his prisoners to death. Another was killing hostages. These were both frowned upon, even in those dark and bloody days. Every time you think he can't possibly do anything worse - he does! He was the youngest son in a spectacularly dysfunctional family, and with four older brothers apparently no chance of inherting the throne of England. But, alas for England, he ...more
Shawn Slattery
Feb 09, 2016 Shawn Slattery rated it really liked it
King John is a very well written account of the life of King John, and all of his abuses of power that led up to the issuance of the Magna Carta; which is a monumental document in the formation of democracy, in that it checks what was previously unchecked power.

This book is very accessible, and reads like a story, which in my opinion is what a good history book should do. As a historian, what i also loved about this book is how it showed how the Magna Carta, like most contemporary historical eve
Matthew Volpert
Jan 24, 2016 Matthew Volpert rated it liked it
Imagine that your 9th grade textbook was written by a history major who just finished watching a bunch of Christopher Nolan movies while bombed on Adderall and Red Bull. This book makes the laborious task of recounting historical events even more daunting by jumping back and forth between chapters within an 11 year span. Which Geoffrey is that? His brother from the last chapter or his illegitimate son from the next? Is that Hugh De Lacy the first or second? Can we agree to either use surnames as ...more
Jul 01, 2016 Sharon rated it it was amazing
I had read the series by Sharyn Penman about this time period and was curious regarding its accuracy. This book, comprehensive and well researched, confirmed Penman's story. It's highly readable and informative. Reading about John's behavior I got the impression that he may have suffered from what we now call Bipolar Disorder. He would shift from generous to tyrannical in a heartbeat. He would demand money (scutage) from the barons then expect them to happily follow him into battle. He was ...more
Taylor Kniphfer
Oct 23, 2015 Taylor Kniphfer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Marc Morris' book on King John stands as not only a compelling and definitive portrait of the king but also of his age. W.L. Warren and others may have mounted a grand defense of John in the mid twentieth century, but Morris' eye for detail and analysis causes historians to thing again. Through this brilliant book, the old verdict of John is not only redeemed by enhanced: King John really was as bad as all that.
Scotty Cameron
Nov 22, 2015 Scotty Cameron rated it liked it
Okay so the reason for the three star rating I gave is because I did not like the "flashback " style of the first half of the book. I like history books to flow chronologically.

Now having said that, this was a very good read. The author drawing on several contemporary sources. A well written narrative. Very engaging.
Mar 23, 2016 Jessica rated it really liked it
Really 3.5 stars...-1 for not being in chronological order. Flashbacks are silly in a biography, especially in an age when so many fathers/sons or mothers/daughters had the same name. And -0.5 stars for not having any battle or campaign maps (except of Château Gaillard). Still, an excellent book and another wonderful history from Mr. Morris. Once it was in chronological it was an engaging read.
May 16, 2016 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
King John was definitely not a good man, even allowing for the possible bias of the contemporary chronicles. When he came to the throne he ruled an empire stretching from Scotland to the Pyrenees. By his death he controlled only a dwindling patch of England. The book is a well researched account of John's cruelty, cowardice, and incompetence, told in an interesting way.
Sep 24, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
Morris depicts an inventive monarch with some serious flaws. His story is fascinating. He was the youngest and favourite son of Henry II but his prospects were rather limited. Hence the nickname 'Lackland'. Morris tells the story of his rise to power and to tyranny. Morris provides facts, references and most of all he tells a story that keeps you turning the pages.
Omar Amer
Sep 04, 2016 Omar Amer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating read. Marc Morris takes you through one of England's most complicated periods in history and describes King John whom is arguably the worst monarch in English history. The author writes the first few chapters by jumping between different decades which at first can be rather confusing, however Marc is rather fair in describing King John despite what later chronicles may have written.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Edward II: The Unconventional King
  • Conquest
  • Edward II
  • Edward III
  • Richard and John: Kings at War
  • The Hundred Years War: A People's History
  • Fears of Henry IV: The Life of England's Self-made King
  • The Knight Who Saved England: William Marshal and the French Invasion, 1217
  • William Marshal: Knighthood, War and Chivalry, 1147-1219
  • The Last Days of Richard III
  • Richard III: The Maligned King
  • Æthelstan: The First King of England
  • Eleanor of Castile
  • The Last White Rose: Dynasty, Rebellion and Treason. The Secret Wars against the Tudors
  • King John
  • The Hollow Crown: A History of Britain in the Late Middle Ages
  • The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, The Power Behind Five English Thrones
  • The Plantagenet Chronicles 1154-1485: Richard the Lionheart, Richard II, Henry V, Richard III

Share This Book