Photo of Edmund KingProfessor Edmund King

Professor Emeritus of Medieval History
M.A., Ph.D. (Cantab.), FSA
11th-15th c. British Political and Economic; Anglo-Norman history

+44 (0)114 22 22589

1 Palmerston Road



King Stephen book cover largeEdmund King is Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at the University of Sheffield. He took his bachelor and doctoral degrees at the University of Cambridge, where he was a student of M. M. Postan. He joined the History department at Sheffield in 1966 and has held a chair since 1989. He has held visiting fellowships at the Huntington Library, USA (where he was a Fulbright Scholar), and at All Souls College, Oxford, and he has taught also at the universities of Connecticut and Michigan in the USA.

Edmund King has published widely in the field of Medieval British History. His illustrated survey of Medieval England (Phaidon, 1988) was a 'book of the month' choice of the History Guild; new editions have appeared from Tempus Publishing (2001, 2005) and The History Press (2009); and a Japanese translation appeared from Keio University Press in 2006. Increasingly his specialised research, growing from his teaching, has come to focus on the reign of King Stephen (1135-1154). The publications cited below include an edited volume of essays on the reign (Oxford University Press, 1994), an edition of one of the main chronicles, the Historia Novella of William of Malmesbury (Oxford Medieval Texts, 1998), and most recently a biography of the king (Yale English Monarchs, 2010).

Professional Roles

Edmund King serves on the Councils of the Lincoln Record Society and the Northamptonshire Record Society.



Edmund King is contracted to write a short biography of Henry I in the Penguin Monarchs series. He has a number of papers forthcoming on the career of King Stephen's more able younger brother, Henry, bishop of Winchester. He is also involved in a project to publish the records of Peterborough Abbey (on which he wrote his doctoral thesis), for which he is preparing a new edition of the chronicles written in the monastery.

Further information on research opportunities within the department.

Full list of Publications

Monographs / Special Issues

King Stephen xvii + 382 pp. + 16 pp. of plates (Yale English Monarchs: Yale University Press, 2010)

Edmund King, King Stephen book coverKing Stephen xvii + 382 pp. + 16 pp. of plates (Yale English Monarchs: Yale University Press, 2010)

This compelling new biography provides the most authoritative picture yet of King Stephen, whose reign (1135–1154), with its “nineteen long winters” of civil war, made his name synonymous with failed leadership. After years of work on the sources, Edmund King shows with rare clarity the strengths and weaknesses of the monarch. Keeping Stephen at the forefront of his account, the author also chronicles the activities of key family members and associates whose loyal support sustained Stephen’s kingship. In 1135 the popular Stephen was elected king against the claims of the empress Matilda and her sons. But by 1153, Stephen had lost control over Normandy and other important regions, England had lost prestige, and the weakened king was forced to cede his family’s right to succession. A rich narrative covering the drama of a tumultuous reign, this book focuses well-deserved attention on a king who lost control of his destiny.

editor (with trans. by K. R. Potter), William of Malmesbury Historia Novella: The Contemporary History, cxiv + 143 pp. (Oxford Medieval Texts: Clarendon Press, 1998)

Edmund King, William of Malmesbury Historia Novella: The Contemporary History book covereditor (with trans. by K. R. Potter), William of Malmesbury Historia Novella: The Contemporary History, cxiv + 143 pp. (Oxford Medieval Texts: Clarendon Press, 1998)

The Historia Novella is a key source for the succession dispute between King Stephen and the Empress Matilda which brought England to civil war in the twelfth century. William of Malmesbury was the doyen of the historians of his day. His account of the main events of the years 1126 to 1142, to some of which he was an eyewitness, is sympathetic to the empress's cause, but not uncritical of her.

Edmund King offers a complete revision of K. R. Potter's edition of 1955, retaining only the translation, which has been amended in places. Not only is this a new edition but it offers a new text, arguing that what have earlier been seen as William of Malmesbury's final revisions are not from his hand. Rather they seem to come from somewhere in the circle of Robert of Gloucester, the empress's half-brother, to whom the work is dedicated. In this way the work raises important questions concerning the transmission of medieval texts.

editor, The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign, xxiii + 332 pp. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)

Edmund King The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign book covereditor, The Anarchy of King Stephen's Reign, xxiii + 332 pp. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994)

The reign of King Stephen (1135-54) is famous as a period of weak government, as Stephen and his rival the Empress Matilda contended for power. This is a study of medieval kingship at its most vulnerable. It also shows how individuals and institutions enabled the monarchy to survive.

A contemporary chronicler described the reign as "nineteen long winters in which Christ and his saints were asleep". In modern literature it is often referred to simply as "the Anarchy".

The weakness of government was the result of a disputed succession. Stephen lost control over Normandy, the Welsh marches, and much of the North. Contemporaries noted as signs of weakness the tyranny of the lords of castles, and the break-down of coinage. Stephen remained king for his lifetime, but leading churchmen and laymen negotiated a settlement whereby the crown passed to the Empress's son the future Henry II.

Medieval England, (The History Press, 2009)

Edmund King Medieval England book coverMedieval England, (The History Press, 2009)

Medieval England presents a broad panorama of the political and cultural development of English society from the Norman Conquest to the end of the Wars of the Roses. It is a story of change, progress, setback, and consolidation, with England emerging as a wealthy and stable country, many of whose essential features were to remain unchanged until the industrial revolution. England was a monarchy, and it is the strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncracies of her kings that provide the central thread of Edmund King's narrative. Yet the great nobles, knights, and merchants meeting in parliament provided constraints which bound even the most powerful king, and a major theme of this book is the gradual emergence of a single political community of shared ideas embracing all ranks of society. Within this framework the author examines many other facets of medieval England, including everyday life, warfare and chivalry, religion and learning, agriculture and economic developments, the machinery of government, the administration of justice, art, and architecture. This illustrated history of medieval England, first published by Phaidon Press / Guild Publishing in 1988, is now reissued in a smaller format.

Peterborough Abbey 1086–1310, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008)

Edmund King Peterborough Abbey 1086-1310Peterborough Abbey 1086–1310, (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008)

The operation of the land market is a topic of crucial importance to the student of economic and social history in the Middle Ages. In this book, Professor King uses a wide range of source material to examine the character of the land market on the estates of Peterborough Abbey in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. He suggests that some common pattern emerges in the behaviour of those concerned, and offers an original interpretation of certain familiar types of medieval record.

Articles and Chapters

- 'A week in politics: Oxford, late July 1141', in The Reign of King Stephen, 1135-1154, ed. Paul Dalton and Graeme White (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2008), pp. 58-79

- 'The Accession of Henry II', in Henry II: New Interpretations, ed. Christopher Harper-Bill and Nicholas Vincent (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2007), pp. 24-46

- 'The Gesta Stephani', in Writing Medieval Biography, 750-1250: Essays in Honour of Frank Barlow, ed. David Bates, Julia Crick, and Sarah Hamilton (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2006), pp. 195-206.

- 'Stephen of Blois, count of Mortain and Boulogne', English Historical Review, 115 (2000), pp. 271-96

Public Engagement

Public Engagement

Edmund King's main public engagement has been through his work for the Northamptonshire Record Society, first as General Editor (1970-1994) and more recently as a member of the advisory committee of the Anthony Mellows Memorial Trust (administered by the Dean and Chapter of Peterborough). He regularly contributes material of local interest to the Society's annual journal, Northamptonshire Past & Present. He has recently started work on - and hopes to be spared to finish- an edition of the letters and diaries of Joan Wake, the founder of the Society, which is to be published to celebrate its centenary in 2020.

Administrative Duties

Administrative Duties

The duties of an Emeritus Professor happily do not involve any responsibility for administration. Earlier in his career, Edmund King undertook a range of responsibilities within the department and the wider university. He was Head of Department, 1995-6, and 2001-04. He served as an officer both of the Faculty of Arts (Sub-Dean, 1975-79) and of the Faculty of Social Sciences (Deputy Dean and then Dean, 1990-94), and he was President of the university's Year Abroad Office, 1985-88.