Lesson Plans: Grades 9-12

Witnesses to Joan of Arc and The Hundred Years’ War


The Lesson


Statue of Joan of Arc in Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

Statue of Joan of Arc in Meridian Hill Park, Washington, D.C.

Credit: Image courtesy of American Memory at the Library of Congress.

Joan of Arc is likely one of France's most famous historical figures, and has been mythologized in popular lore, literature, and film. She is also an exceptionally well-documented historical figure. Available online through EDSITEment resources and links are transcripts of two of her trials and other archival records such as letters Joan dictated. Through such firsthand accounts students can trace Joan's history from childhood, through her death, and on to her nullification trial. Reading the words of laborers, pages, knights, and clerics provides some authentic historical context for a charismatic and complicated figure. Students completing the lesson will better understand Joan's place in the history of the Hundred Years' War: what motivated her, enabled her successes, and brought about her demise and posthumous vindication.

Guiding Questions

  • How do firsthand accounts reflect on Joan of Arc's role in the Hundred Years' War and her posthumous rehabilitation?

Learning Objectives

  • Use the key events of the Hundred Years' War in France as the context for a discussion of Joan of Arc.
  • Use evidence from firsthand accounts to delve into Joan of Arc's life and the historical milieu in which she lived.


  • Visit the History of The Hundred Years War (15th Century) and the History of Joan of Arc accessible through a link from EDSITEment resource The Internet Public Library for background information on Joan of Arc and the Hundred Years War.
  • For background information on Joan's three trials in the essay visit The Condemnation and Rehabilitation Trials of Joan of Arc (accessible through a link from the EDSITEment-reviewed The Labyrinth). It is important to note the following:
    • No transcript survives from Joan's first trial. We do know that, in the end, no reasons were found at the trial to dispute Joan's claims or to refuse her help.
    • Joan's second trial (the so-called Condemnation Trial) was technically an official trial of the Inquisition though it was never officially sanctioned by the Pope. Joan's imprisonment and the conduct of the trial violated ecclesiastical court procedures in a number of ways.
    • Though Joan's Nullification Trial was sanctioned by the Pope, it was not a purely objective procedure. Most of the witnesses called were supporters of Joan.

Preparation Instructions

  • Review the online lesson, interactives, and other materials you will use with your class.
  • In Activity #3, in which students read first-hand testimony about Joan, decide which selections the students will use. Prepare them for distribution. Nine sets of suggested excerpts are provided, divided into two groups. Excerpts from Joan's Condemnation Trial are shown first as that trial came first chronologically.

    In classes without time to explore all of the excerpts, the testimony from the Nullification Trial—excerpts 5-10—trace Joan's story (albeit from the point of view of friends or supporters) from her childhood to her death. The excerpts from the Condemnation Trial, on the other hand, offer insight into the English attitude toward Joan. Another possible approach using some excerpts from both trials would be to assign the first three from each as companion pieces for comparing and contrasting.
  • In this lesson, students use first- and secondhand accounts about Joan of Arc. Students need to be aware of the effect of point of view and the potential for bias in such sources. EDSITEment resources offer some useful materials designed to help students and teachers work with primary sources.

    The following materials from EDSITEment resources may be useful to teachers and/or seeking expert advice on the use of primary documents:

Lesson Activities

Activity 1. Joan of Arc's Trials: The Testimony of the Witnesses

You will be assigning excerpts from the trial transcripts to small groups of students. Allow time in class, or at home, for students to read their assigned excerpts and to prepare members of the group to role-play the person or persons in the excerpt and then, no longer role-playing, to answer questions and/or lead discussion reflecting on the excerpt. Begin by sharing the following brief excerpt with the class: Jean D'aulon: 1456 (Joan's Steward), from the words, "Moreover, that, the next day …" to "from the hands of the enemy …". Note: The "Deponent" is the steward who is giving the testimony. Discuss the information the steward provides:

  • What strategy did they employ? (They decide to take control of a road in front of the fort first. They attack it from all sides.)
  • What indication is there that Joan's military strategies are not all divine revelations? (She consults with her "lords and captains.")
  • How does the steward characterize his own actions during the battle? What potential for bias is present? (He claims that as they were retreating-unable to take the boulevard-he convinced La Basque to carry the standard of the French troops back into the boulevard. Joan eventually got hold of it there. She began waving it, inspiring her troops.)
  • What evidence is given of Joan's bravery? (She takes hold of the standard herself. She receives wounds during the battle.)
  • Ultimately, what does D'aulon indicate caused the final retreat of the English? (Demoralization and confusion)
  • The students will be presenting abridged versions of testimony from the trial in the voices of the witnesses. If D'aulon were to briefly run through the key points in his testimony in modern English, what would he say? If you were directing a movie of the trial, what actor would you hire to play D'aulon? What would you advise the actor about playing the character?

Now, assign the excerpts you want the students to use.

NOTE: The excerpt titles in the LaunchPads link directly to the page in the transcript on which the excerpt begins. Often, more than one excerpt may be found on that page. Scroll down the page as necessary to find the specific title.

The excerpts from the trial for each group are available here as Student Launchpads. Students should access the links to the testimony for their group, either Group One or Group Two. All of the testimony is available from Saint Joan of Arc's Trials accessible through a link from EDSITEment resource The Labyrinth. Once they have read the excerpts assigned to their group, students should begin by creating a list of questions similar to those given in the example of Jean D'aulon above. Students should be encouraged to seek out both what information is in the excerpt, as well as telling omissions. Students should revisit the questions raised in the previous activity and seek to answer them.

  • What does this excerpt tell us about the events that the speaker witnessed?
  • What does it tell us about Joan's actions and behavior during these events?
  • What does the testimony tell us about the person giving the evidence?
  • What does the excerpt convey about the speaker's point of view and motivations? Is this person a supporter or an opponent of Joan?
  • If you did not know which trial this evidence came from, would you think this came from Joan's trial for heresy or the subsequent nullification trial? Why?

They should also seek to answer more general questions about what these excerpts from the trials tell us about Joan of Arc.

  • What does this excerpt tell us about Joan's motivations?
  • What can we learn from this excerpt about her goals?
  • What does this testimony tell us about her strengths? Weaknesses?

After each account is offered, the group leads the class in briefly discussing the excerpt. Class members point to and discuss testimony they believe reflects on any of the questions students raised. After all of the accounts have been discussed, ask volunteers to suggest one or two exemplary theses they believe answer key questions raised previously. Students should compare and contrast the testimony of the two trials and discuss theses explaining what underlies the differences in their tone and content.

  • What evidence from the excerpts tends to support the thesis?
  • What potential bias in the excerpt should be noted?
  • For which questions did no evidence surface, pointing toward the need for further research?

Now each student should develop a thesis in answer to one of the student-raised questions. In the assessment phase of this lesson, this thesis will become the basis of an essay.

Activity 2. The Life of Joan of Arc in Brief

In this activity students will be reading two brief biographies of Joan of Arc. The goal is to raise important questions the biographies leave unanswered. While students are reading the biographies you may also find it useful to share with students the Interactive Maps accessible through a link from EDSITEment resource The Labyrinth, which will allow students to follow along with Joan's movements. Depending on the size of your class, have students work independently, in small groups, or in the whole class setting as they read two brief biographies of Joan of Arc. Two biographies of Joan of Arc accessible through links from EDSITEment sources are:

Neither of these biographies is comprehensive and each has a point of view that intrudes on the text. As each biography is read, the students should

  • Keep a sharp eye out for loaded language or statements of opinion;
  • Identify any particular point of view expressed in the biography and any ways in which that point of view affects its content;
  • Raise questions about important aspects of Joan's history with an emphasis on Joan's successes, her demise, and the motivations of those who supported and opposed her, such as:
    • What military strategies did Joan use? Why were they successful?
    • What political strategies did Joan use? In what ways was she successful? In what ways was she unsuccessful?
    • Joan's so-called Condemnation Trial was officially an Inquisition trial questioning Joan's claim to have been guided by the voices of saints. Did Joan's questioners at this trial have a reason to want a specific outcome? What can be inferred about the motivations of her questioners based on the questions that they asked?
    • What can be discerned about the motivations behind Joan's Nullification Trial based on the testimony and the choice of witnesses?
    • Is there sufficient evidence to understand why Charles failed to support Joan during her Condemnation Trial?

Review the basic facts of Joan's life that are common to all of the biographies. Then, compile a list of the questions students have raised. In the whole class setting, take one or two student generated questions and discuss the kind of evidence a historian might look for in an attempt to answer the question. For example, to understand how a peasant girl could rally the French forces, it would be useful to have the testimony of someone in the French army speaking about his view of Joan. Reading Joan's words about her military and political strategies would be instructive. If one could find the account of an Englishman defending Orleans, it would be invaluable.

Activity 3. Background on The Hundred Years' War: The Treaty of Troyes

In order to best understand the story of Joan of Arc you may wish to begin by discussing the historical context in which she lived, and the Hundred Years War in which she took part. From the class text or other source, give the students some background on the rather confusing relations between England and France and how they affected conditions in France. You might begin by sharing with the class the brief excerpt from The Treaty of Troyes from Hundred Years War, from the EDSITEment resource Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

  • What claim to the French throne does the treaty give Henry?
  • What does the treaty state about how the two countries should be ruled in the future?
  • What attitude toward Charles VII does it express?

Then share the excerpt on the same page about conditions in France.

  • What were the conditions facing Charles VII?


Ask the students to complete essays supporting the theses they developed using at least some evidence from the firsthand accounts as support. Pose the following questions as guidance:

  • Does the essay focus on supporting a clearly stated thesis?
  • Does the thesis address an important issue concerning Joan's role in the Hundred Years' War, her posthumous rehabilitation, or the motivations of those who supported or opposed her?
  • What evidence from the primary sources supports the thesis?
  • What evidence from other sources supports the thesis?
  • What consideration have you given to potential bias in the sources you use for support? It is suggested that, as they develop their essays, students be allowed to use the online transcripts of Saint Joan of Arc's Trials accessible through a link from EDSITEment resource The Labyrinth, as well as teacher-approved secondary sources.

The Basics

Grade Level


Time Required

3 class periods

Subject Areas
  • History and Social Studies > Place > Europe
  • History and Social Studies > World > The Medieval World (500 CE-1500 CE)
  • Critical analysis
  • Critical thinking
  • Discussion
  • Historical analysis
  • Making inferences and drawing conclusions
  • Using primary sources
  • David Kleiner (Rydal, PA)


Student Resources