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Frankly, they probably need to be this way to have any hope of keeping England under the control of Normans. The baffling thing for me is that England never really unites under a strong leader. One just never emerges. Marc Morris researches all the sources of all the writers who wrote about this period. He weighs their biases, tosses aside the obvious hyperbole, and wiggles the truth, as best he can, from what is left. View all 11 comments. Feb 04, Steve rated it really liked it Shelves: history , e-books. When I was in elementary school, I recall looking at an illustrated history book and seeing a picture of William the Conqueror.

In the picture he was riding through an English town London? He had just won a battle, and Harold I didn't even know Harold was a king , dead at Hastings with an arrow through his eye. I vaguely remember not liking William too much, and that Harold was kind of an unlucky good When I was in elementary school, I recall looking at an illustrated history book and seeing a picture of William the Conqueror.

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I vaguely remember not liking William too much, and that Harold was kind of an unlucky good guy. Well, that has now changed. But Edward future saint was no fool, and he briefly was able to kick the Godwinsons out of power. During this window of time, Edward it is speculated made his offer of the throne to William. Actually, as histories go, this particular book contains a huge amount of authorial speculation.

However Morris is up front about it. Early on he concedes, as something of a warning, that the sources historians have to draw on can fit onto a short book shelf. In this case, Morris relies on the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, a few other histories that can probably seen as partly pro-Norman propaganda, and, of course, that marvelous piece of art, the Bayeux Tapestry itself a piece of propaganda.

As a result, Morris is often forced to speculate about what was going on.

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It could have failed. It should have failed. But Harold was racing up and down England trying to stave off other threats to his new kingship, so that by the time he met William in battle, his troops were exhausted. Even then, the battle was a close thing. By the way, the arrow in the eye bit may not have happened. The question of how Harold died touches on larger things. The contrast between the English blood feuds and the Normans mercy? Time and again, given the repeated rebellions and betrayals by the same people, I kept wondering why William just didn't start cutting off heads?

But in Chivalry, appearances matter. Oh, William was capable of great brutality eye gouging, hands and feet hacked off, artificial famines that killed thousands , but he always seemed reluctant to actually execute the leaders of the various rebellions. Also, wrapped up in this story, is that it coincides with the reform movement in the Catholic Church, as well as the waning of the Danish Vikings!

William was a tough soldier, but he was also fortunate due to the breaks of history. Morris juggles all of this wonderfully, at least until the end, when he discusses the Domesday Book. A necessary discussion, I know, but boring as hell given the contrasting drama of the preceding chapters.

Nevertheless, I came away from this book with a greater understanding of what makes the English English. Mar 14, Alex rated it it was amazing. I have, as yet, not managed to find a decent account of the Norman invasion that was both well written and informative.

Morris has done an excellent job of both counts. The wonderful thing about this book is that there is a narrative thread, a real sense of an unfolding story. And having not really considered the politics of the period since I was a child, Morris managed to explain everything at a sensible pace without ever making me feel out of my depth in such unfamiliar territory.

And the con I have, as yet, not managed to find a decent account of the Norman invasion that was both well written and informative. And the conquest IS unfamiliar territory, because nearly all of what I thought I knew is wrong. It's commendable that Morris deliberately set out to write a book for a general readership rather than medievalists with a clutch of doctorates.

It was such a pleasure reading this book. There was a lightbulb moment on practically every page. I had assumed that the Normans were violent bullies crushing an unsophisticated bunch of weedy Anglo-saxons to a bloody pulp, hanging around like a bad smell and treating the conquered like slaves. However, I was wrong. I may even become a born again medievalist! I'll certainly be ignoring my ancient myths and 17th century whores for a while. A trip to Hastings and various other locations mentioned by Morris are already being planned and I'll be taking my well thumbed copy along.

The Norman Conquest of was probably one of the most brutal colonisation of a Christian land by another Christian Country ever to have happened, or at least for several hundred years afterwards. Marc Morris chronicles the years leading up to , putting character onto the various important figures involved during the late tenth and early eleventh Centuries. This includes trying to give insight into what was socially occurring in England prior to the invasion and what had gone before.

Also, The Norman Conquest of was probably one of the most brutal colonisation of a Christian land by another Christian Country ever to have happened, or at least for several hundred years afterwards. Also, a good historical analyses of the the Normans and their history prior to Williams crowning. I guess we all know that the term 'Norman' means 'Norsemen', denoting the fact that they were a Scandinavian tribe who were allowed to settle in Northern France. Maybe the whole conquest thing that occurred in really was like a back door invasion orchestrated by ex-Vikings , defeating the Anglo-Saxons once and for all, destroying what King Alfred and the Danelaw had tried to achieve for the past few hundred years in Britain, mainly a peace.

All the main characters are here; William the Bastard for being born out of wedlock and had quite a charmed existence to gain the Norman Throne ; Edward the Confessor, the last Anglo-Saxon Wessex King - he made some bad decisions as he had no direct inheritor for the English Throne which led to a very powerful noble family, the Godwinesons, to influence his court, most notably passing the Throne to Harold on his death bed actually, no one is sure what Edward said as his death-throes were only witnessed by a select few , and so on.

However, just like every source on and its aftermath, it is hard to actually find any balanced account; from the Bayeux Tapestry to all the Norman Bishops accounts of the conquest, we really have a history written by the victors. It is only sources such as the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and several English writers, writing about the history decades and longer afterwards, that try and rebalance the tale. It is no mean feat to be able to craft an historical narrative, trying to keep the history as balanced as you can with very few reliable non-partisan sources to go on.

However, I found Marc Morris achieves a remarkable, balanced narrative history using these sources.


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An immensely readable account, which as I stated, paints around the tale showing what the era prior in both Britain and France was socially and theologically like the Pope supported Williams claim to the English Throne and invaded with his blessing. Also, the history of Hastings is written about and just how unlucky Harold was in being killed after his success of defeating the Norwegian King Hardrada only about a week before. Tragic in every way there is also mention of 'the arrow in the eye' theory as well as Harold being sought out and ridden down - we will never know.

I suppose everyone is familiar with the basic outlines of , but a few facts are always dismissed from the main curriculum; one of these facts is the 'Harrying of the North', a rarely discussed topic that saw the Northern Anglo-Saxon Earls rebelling after the conquest. From around until or so, England was in a state of flux, a period whereby the last remaining 'retinue' of the now-vanquished Wessex line rebelled against the Normans for several years after.

The rebellion were looking towards Scotland and Denmark for support, and whilst briefly they lent it, William managed to make a deal with both, thus loosing the rebels of their main hope. Many died in what looks like an almost genocidal extermination. Also, William replaced nearly all the old English landowners, estates, manors, bishoprics et al with his French allies. By the time the rebellions were over, the old Anglo-Saxon aristocracy had been all but wiped out, eliminated from land-ownership by the Norman entourage of William.

But Marc Morris also states that whilst these were horrific acts of asserting Williams authority, he also was on of the first to adopt a 'chivalric' code, hence he took leniency in several cases towards his opponents. There is much more here in this history than I can put into a review without becoming too bogged down. Needless to say, it is a fantastic narrative history, containing some very obscure facts and written not too academically or dry.

Also there is quite a large section on the Domesday Book that William inaugurated around , which is a very valuable source of information, not only showing the devastation that was still occurring in the North and what the Harrying had done, but also showing the complete elimination of the old Anglo Saxon hierarchy. William needed money for both stationing mercenaries in England as well as the trouble he was facing in Normandy from the French King.

To pay off the initial invasion force and garrisons of , William raided the English Church and its land and relics to pay for his mercenaries he used to conquer. I digress.


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The Domesday Book details all land in England and parts of Wales, the most full account of early medieval land ownership in Britain we have, quite an achievement. A good, balanced, readable, informative study of a very confusing and controversial period of British History.

Mr Morris presents the events in a readable way that binds the characters, their place in England, Normandy and wider to the lead-up to invasion and the events in medieval Europe that influence strategies and actions. I found Mr Morris an informative and highly knowledgeable companion through this journey, who was able to add his own comment or suggestion to events or sources.

The period up to the conquest both in England and across the channel and North sea is complicated with many players, alliances and plans. Mr Morris steers a path that for this reader was easy to understand in terms of those many names and events that influenced politics, territorial claims and military actions. The reigns and actions of Cnut and Edward the Confessor were well covered and although, as the author states sources are not many, I hope he tackles these kings in a future book. I was also intrigued to see that whilst the Normans were no gentle occupier they did not conduct political assassination nor undertake slavery; unlike the English who did both in spades.

I read the Windmill Books paperback edition , which was beautifully illustrated with colour photos of tapestries, money, boats and buildings. This helped the story and the publisher deserves credit for this quality. It will whet your appetite for more. View 1 comment. Some room is made for small bits on architecture, and cultural aspects, but the focus is clearly on the lives of Edward, Harold and William, how they are tied to the Conquest, what actually happened and how it worked out.

Biggest plus is how Morris brings the era to life through the use of sources, however difficult that may be. Morris himself starts by telling us, in the introduction, how scant the sources for this era are. He has a meal with his friends, takes a ship out into the English Channel, and somehow ends up as the guest of the duke of Normandy. Morris manages to find a path here that I found credible and engaging. A bit rambling, so not the best review ever, but the book comes highly recommended.

View all 14 comments. Very interesting and well-argued book about England in the 11th century, focusing on the Conquest of course but with a long historical prelude that put it in context and with the follow-up difficult establishment of Norman rule after the battle of Hastings as England has had alien kings before but always shook them off eventually, while the Normans came to stay Definitely recommended. Mar 01, Samantha rated it it was amazing Shelves: british-history , kindle-own-it , saxon-england , nonfiction , norman-england , book-club-read. Morris has given us a thorough yet readable explanation of events surrounding the Norman Conquest with this well-researched work.

With a detailed look at the years leading up to William's invasion through the ascendancy of Henry II, the reader is made aware of each nuance of English life that was affected by the arrival of the Normans. Morris has a brilliant style of writing that takes into account a variety of theories and tends not to more forcefully press with one than the evidence supports. H Morris has given us a thorough yet readable explanation of events surrounding the Norman Conquest with this well-researched work. He manages a huge cast of vivid characters and masterfully weaves their stories together.

Rather than claiming that he can solve for questions, like who Edward really intended to have inherit his crown, Morris presents related theories and admits that there is no way for us to know for sure. Looking into consequences that reach far beyond Hastings, this narrative explains the years of rebellions and setbacks that William was forced to cope with and explores how the shifting of power caused sweeping changes that are noted in everyday life, down to the language that was spoken.

I admit that most of my knowledge of this period has previously come through historical fiction and some random fact checking.

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This more thorough study enabled me to see, for the first time, some interesting comparisons and contrasts between William's arrival in England and Henry Tudor's. Though Morris does not make any parallel observations, some of the connections in my own mind were thought provoking. Where William was fought against for years, Henry was more or less welcomed. Morris does note the differences between earlier take-overs, such as Cnut's, and William's.

I found it all rather intriguing. A wonderful study of the reasons for and results of the Norman Conquest, I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to dig deeper into this era of history. An accessible non-fiction. Basically expands on what was written in contemporaneous accounts or in accounts written within a hundred years or so after. I feel this one is not really going to give you anything new if you have read books on this period of history before. It is the same old recap with very little new added to the story.

My impression is that if you have read little on the Conquest or have read nothing at all, then this book will do you. If you are looking for more supposition and l An accessible non-fiction. If you are looking for more supposition and logical theorising, this one probably will not do you. View all 4 comments. As picturesque as the Bayeux Tapestry itself. Where historical sources or scholars disagree, Morris is a master tour guide through the material. Didn't need the extensive recapitulation in the last chapter--or. Dec 02, Kristina Church milashus rated it it was amazing.

Outstanding book by Marc Morris. Morris weaves together a fine overview of the times. The book starts with the reign of Edgar in , and gives the reader a great overview of the English and Danish rulers of England prior to The real story picks Outstanding book by Marc Morris. The real story picks up with the reign of Edward the Confessor, who had no children, and how William of Normandy came to be the rightful depending on how you look at it ruler of England.

Admittedly, the Anglo-Saxon and Norman contemporary sources are skewed based on the writers and whether they saw William as a tyrannical Conquerer or as a Mighty Warrior claiming his rightful throne. Morris does an outstanding job of closely looking at similarities between the writings and offering the reader theories of what may be exaggerated either for or against the benefit of William.

Yet, he allows the reader to come to their own conclusions. The book goes through William's entire 21 year reign, and offers brief overviews of the reigns of his heirs, up through Henry II. It gives a fascinating look at theories as to why the Domesday book was ever written, but offers no true conclusion, as we really don't know.

I highly recommend this book if you are interested in this time period. The meat of the book concentrates on the Battle of Hastings and the rule of William the Conqueror, but ties it all nicely together with the before and afters, and how England was changed forever because of the Conquest. An extremely readable non-fiction that read almost like a novel, it was so entertaining. Marc Morris has meticulously researched and footnoted this fine book, although as a KindleUnlimited I would have to borrow again to utilize that feature. The Norman invasion is important to many of us to better understand where our customs comes from.

My maternal grandfather's family came with the Normans to England and then into Ireland by , this book shone a light on that era for me. I understand why my An extremely readable non-fiction that read almost like a novel, it was so entertaining. I understand why my Irish great grandfather came to New Jersey with a British Army pension, they apparently always "sold their swords".

My same ancestral family worked in the retinue of all the Norman Kings and I am entranced with these works. If you are looking for a lot of hard facts, forget it. This is not Morris' fault, there simply aren't many from that period. The only systematic attempt to record what was going on was the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle which in some years records only a single event, while other years are ignored entirely. I know some of us view the Brits as rather staid and boring, but surely there must have been more going on even there.

About the only other contemporary account is the Bayeux Tapestry - a curtain for God's sake. Most of the information that we have was written in the twelfth century by the like of Oderic Vitalis, Robert of Gumieges and William of Malmesbury. All of these sources are highly biased if you can imagine that in favor of either the English or the Normans. Wrestling any solid histoty from these sources would be a lot like writing the history of 21st Century America from watching Fox and NBC evening newscasts. Morris gives you pretty much all the points of view, tells you why he may favor one over the others but pretty much lets you make up your own mind about what might have happened.

An interesting read. Narrated by: Frazer Douglas Length: 18 hrs and 9 mins Unabridged Audiobook A riveting and authoritative history of the single most important event in English history: The Norman Conquest. Description: An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom.

This new history explains why the Norman Conquest was the most significant Narrated by: Frazer Douglas Length: 18 hrs and 9 mins Unabridged Audiobook A riveting and authoritative history of the single most important event in English history: The Norman Conquest. This new history explains why the Norman Conquest was the most significant cultural and military episode in English history. Assessing the original evidence at every turn, Marc Morris goes beyond the familiar outline to explain why England was at once so powerful and yet so vulnerable to William the Conqueror's attack; why the Normans, in some respects less sophisticated, possessed the military cutting edge; how William's hopes of a united Anglo-Norman realm unraveled, dashed by English rebellions, Viking invasions, and the insatiable demands of his fellow conquerors.

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This is a tale of powerful drama, repression, and seismic social change: the Battle of Hastings itself; the sudden introduction of castles and the massive rebuilding of every major church; the total destruction of an ancient ruling class. Language, law, architecture, and even attitudes toward life itself were altered forever by the coming of the Normans. View 2 comments. Jul 28, Carol McGrath rated it it was amazing. This is a superb analysis which is extremely valuable for the footnotes.

It contains some excellent words of caution on primary source material too. It is succinct and to the point. Considering the wealth of material available about the Norman Conquest, a book needs to be very special in order to stand out. Here, it was refreshing to recognize the Norman Conquest as something that did not end at the Battle of Hastings. In fact, Hastings was just the beginning of a tumultuous campaign to replace one ruling class with another, while subjugating a mutinous population.

In fact, by the time Hastings is over, we aren't even halfway through the book yet. The first few years after W Considering the wealth of material available about the Norman Conquest, a book needs to be very special in order to stand out. The first few years after William takes the crown, the incessant uprisings nearly proved to be his undoing. In my mind, to look at a map of England, where one fire went out, another appeared across the country. There were little fires marking insurrections everywhere!

It seems that the men who accompanied William to Hastings did not bargain for so much resistance: "During the winter of conditions in William's army were clearly so bad that there appears to have been something approaching a mutiny". Since William did not have cash to offer his supporters, he could only promise them more land, the best thing to inflame the English even further. It started a vicious cycle that took 20 years to sort out; it seems that almost as much land was stolen from the native population as was awarded by the King.

Who would be able to stop a rapacious Norman? At the beginning of the book, I was concerned that Morris was leaving key considerations out of his tale. But no, it turns out that he just presented his facts in a different order than I expected. Satisfied that he gave due attention to evidence I was aware of, I was ready to absorb material I wasn't as familiar with later on For instance, I knew that the Normans took over vast expanses of prime land; what I didn't know was that by the Domesday book, they had almost completely taken over everything else: "Of Domesday's 1, tenants-in-chief, a mere thirteen are English", and "Of the 8, subtenants recorded in the survey, only around ten percent are English England's middling thegns, who had numbered around 4,,, have been swept clean away.

Maybe not! To me, Morris's study of the Domesday Book is the most critical section of this volume. I always assumed that the great survey was compiled to help William calculate how much to tax everyone. But it was much more than that.

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The officers who gathered the information held courts and meetings to investigate claims of landholders and sometimes complaints from aggrieved parties. This resulted in binding charters that confirmed once and for all the exact boundaries of all the estates held by William's feudal underlings. Not only did this give the new landowners security of title, but from now on "thanks to the survey he knew exactly who owned what and where it was located.

It was a perfect new beginning for a system previously unknown in the land. Having read this book, I now understand just how completely the Normans changed the country. When Canute conquered England, he "began his reign by executing those Englishmen whose loyalty he suspected and promoted trustworthy natives in their place.

The English knew they were conquered in , but in they had refused to believe it. View all 3 comments. At one point in 'The Norman Conquest', writing about the Bayeux Tapestry, Marc Morris says; "No other source takes us so immediately and so vividly back to that lost time. It really is an astoundingly well written and well put together book. As with those two, t At one point in 'The Norman Conquest', writing about the Bayeux Tapestry, Marc Morris says; "No other source takes us so immediately and so vividly back to that lost time.

As with those two, this really deserves at least 6 stars. You know what happened don't you? Normans come over, beat Harold at Hastings, conquered us, spoke French, tormented Robin Hood, etc, etc. But wait. Do you really know what happened, or why, or where? Or thought you knew, but as you will soon find out, had wrong. For one and I'm not giving anything away as if you read the first few pages in a bookshop while deciding about getting it, you'll come across this ; The Bayeux Tapestry.

Not a tapestry. Not made in Bayeux. And once that has finished rocking your Norman world, you're ready to read on. Marc Morris has an open, inviting and encouragingly readable style. He's very honest and critical when discussing the few sources we have for events of this period in an excellent 'down-to-earth', matter of fact style. He's very good at cutting through the reams of ancient hype and he's perfect at reading between the medieval lines of 1,year old press releases and spin doctors' erm…spin.

History written by the victors and by the losers sometimes for the victors , has been simmered down and when the mists have cleared, we have Marc Morris' The Norman Conquest. Read 'The Norman Conquest' and you'll get even more enjoyment out of them. Robert Bartlett describes how the fateful battle of unfolded. Harold marches his troops miles south to meet the Norman invaders in Hastings. Although his men are tired, the battle is closely fought: at various points, both leaders are feared dead.

At dusk, the Normans finally overcome the English and Harold is killed when an arrow lodges in his eye. Legend says he was so mutilated only his lover could identify him by 'secret marks' on his body. William is crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. The campaign of destruction and oppression came to be known as the Norman Yoke. To cement his kingship, William creates a new Norman aristocracy. Castles are built to protect the new nobles and flaunt their power. Yet the north continues to cause William problems. After a series of rebellions, he decides to force it into submission and unite England through a campaign of terror and brutality.

He lays waste to English villages and destroys farmlands, robbing agricultural communities of their livelihoods. When famine sets in there are tales of people eating dogs, cats and even human flesh to survive. With , dead, it will be decades before the north recovers from such systematic devastation. He cut down many people and destroyed homes and land. Nowhere else had he shown such cruelty God will punish him.

Find out how the Normans transformed the English language. William's ruthless leadership has achieved some stability in England. Emboldened, he explores territory beyond his kingdom's borders. In , he quashes the last serious revolt by English nobles and marriages between French-speaking Normans and Anglo-Saxons become common, beginning a melding of cultures still evident in the English language of today.

Words including onion, pork, beef and mushroom derive from the French nobility. Robert Bartlett on what Britain's oldest surviving public document tells us about life in Norman England. An incredible display of Norman efficiency, the country-wide survey was finished in six months. Whatever its purpose, nothing of its kind and scale would be produced again until the 19th Century.

There was no single Much of the last portion of William's life is spent back in Normandy, hunting and indulging his generous appetite. In William is riding through the plundered town of Mantes when his large stomach is thrown against his saddle. The injury proves fatal. At his funeral, his stomach explodes: the priest rushes the funeral rites to escape the stench. Despite this undignified end, William's legacy endures — the English language is transformed, the Domesday Book completed and power shifted from Northern to Western Europe.

It is another years before an English-speaking king is crowned in Westminster Abbey. This page is no longer being updated. BBC Iwonder. William on horseback, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry. Edward the Confessor, as depicted in the Bayeux Tapestry.