Active Learning on

Reading and On-line Resources

The Paston 600 Website is the focal point for information and resources about the Pastons from the autumn of 2019 HERE …

This is the website of the Heritage Lottery-funded project, a collaboration between the University of East Anglia, the Paston Heritage Society and the Norfolk Record Office. Website content will include 3D recreations of the major buildings linked to the Pastons and a gateway to the letters database.

Until this site is available see the linked website ‘This Is The Pastons’ HERE …

Starter Pack

Helen Castor, Blood and Roses (2004) is the classic account of the Pastons, telling the family’s story and also placing it in the context of national politics and the Wars of the Roses.

Helen Castor is a highly regarded historian whose research has focused on this period so this is much more than ‘popular history’ – but it does help to have an outline of events to refer to when the story gets complicated!

Roger Virgoe, Illustrated Letters of the Paston Family (1989).

Dr Virgoe was a historian at UEA and does a fine job helping newcomers to the Pastons. There are lists of key dates, mini-biographies of the main letter writers and short essays on a variety of aspects of 15thC life plus it’s a beautifully illustrated book. The core of the book is his account of the Pastons’ story built around a wide selection from the letters with modernised text - whereas Castor and Barber (see below) generally use shorter extracts within their own text. This book is out of print but readily and cheaply available.

DVD: Helen Castor’s three excellent television programmes (originally shown on BBC4)

Medieval Lives: Births, Deaths and Marriages have been published on DVD.

The Letters Themselves

Norman Davis (ed.), The Paston Letters: a selection in modern spelling (2008).

Davis was the editor of the academic edition – see below. This version has about 140 of the letters – a lot of the spelling is modernised but you will need to make extensive use of the glossary.

Diana Watt (ed.), The Paston Women: Selected Letters (2004).

Containing modernized text of 92 letters, all written by or on behalf of women who were part of or linked to the Paston family. There are also two informative essays on the writers, the processes of composition etc.

N. Davis et al. (eds.), Paston Letters and Papers of the Fifteenth Century (1971-2005).

The academic collection of the letters, this 3 volume edition provides full text and notes with original spelling and punctuation. Vol 1 contains letters by members of the family, grouped by author; Vol 2 contains letters to the family. Vol 3 contains additional letters and other related papers. Given the problems of dating some of the letters there’s plenty of discussion in Castor and Richmond (below) about alternative dates for letters.

Other Reading

Richard Barber, A Family in the Wars of the Roses, (1981, new ed. 2004)

This is very like Helen Castor’s book in approach but at 200 pages quite a lot shorter. Barber is another highly-regarded medievalist.

Colin Richmond, The Paston family in the fifteenth century, 3 volumes (1990-2000).

The most complex discussion of the Pastons – hugely detailed, often delightful, sometimes eccentric, frequently enchanting, occasionally really hard going! But delightful wins out – this would be my desert island pick but it’s not the place to start.

H S Bennett, The Pastons and their England (1922).

A different structure and still well-worth reading, the chapters explore aspects of society as exemplified by the letters e.g. marriage, women’s life, parents and children, roads and bridges.

Dictionary of National Biography

Accessible on-line through many local authority library cards.

For children: Martyn Whittock, The Pastons in medieval Britain (1993)

And ...

There’s obviously a far more extensive literature, to be found in the bibliographies of the books above.

On-line Resources


As I mentioned earlier, this is the focal point for information and resources about the Pastons from the autumn of 2019 HERE …

‘This is the Pastons’ website

The website contains lots of valuable material including letters in original and modern spelling, images of the model of Paston hall etc HERE …

British Library: Letters

Digitised images of the letters on British Library site plus an introduction to the letters which also shows how varied the styles of writing are in the letters HERE …

University of Michigan: Letters Sent by the Family

On-line transcripts of the letters sent by members of the Paston family. These are taken from volume 1 of the main academic collection ed. Norman Davis (see above) HERE …

This provides only the letters written by the family, not those they received from non-family members which are in vol 2 of Davis but not in this on-line collection.

Gairdner Transcript and Non-Family Letters

The transcript of James Gairdner’s 6 volume 1904 edition.

This has been superceded by Davis’s edition but it does include the letters from non-family members HERE …

Note: If that link doesn’t work try the link to 1904 Gairdner edition near the end of the BL item 1 above

A brief sound recording

An actress reading a letter by Margaret Paston in 15thC dialect HERE …

Note: the ‘play recording’ button is quite small on the left side of the screen

Paston Material

The Paston Letters

The Paston Family

Reading & On-line Resources

The Pastons in the Classroom

PowerPoint Support


More …

Other articles explaining the ideas and planning behind the classroom resources are available HERE …


Exploring & Teaching Medieval History

Download it from the HA website HERE …

And see the contents pages HERE …