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1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux…
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1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry (2004)

by Andrew Bridgeford

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Future or past readers of this book: There is a larger, scrollable copy of the Bayeux Tapestry online at http://panograph.free.fr/BayeuxTapestry.html, which you can follow along with the printed copy in this book. The additional detail that you can see of this beautifully stitched and designed work of art is terrific. ( )
  Diane-bpcb | Mar 16, 2013 |
A well researched and highly readable history and analysis. The author rejects the traditional view that the tapestry is pure Norman propaganda, though it can superficially be read in that way. He detects traits of sympathy for the English side in the depiction of Harold saving two Norman soldiers from drowning and arguably negotiating for the release of his brother Wulfnoth, rather than communicating King Edward's supposed wish for William to succeed him, as the Norman version had it.

The author's view is that the commissioner was Eustace of Boulogne, who was a lukewarm ally of William, but later fell out with William's brother Odo. The tapestry may have been a peace offering to Odo when they made up.

This seemed plausible but the later analyses of the unknown figures named in the tapestry such as Turold (who he claims was a jongleur who may have authored the Chanson de Roland) seem to interpret the evidence a shade too far beyond what can rationally be surmised. The same went for his theory about Aelfgyva, who he thinks represents Canute's English wife Aelfgifu of Northampton. But they, and the whole book, made for fascinating reading. ( )
1 vote john257hopper | Oct 21, 2011 |
Before reading this book, in February 2006, I had never heard of the Bayeux Tapestry, and if I had not stumbled over it in Westminster Abbey's bookshop, it would have been very unlikely I would ever noticed its existence in a normal bookshop, medieval english history being as far away from my interests as the grammar of ancient phoenician... Once said this, I can only be thankful for having discovered this book and the marvelous story it unfolds. Well known to all britons, the Bayeux tapestry is a fragile and exquisite embroidery (reproduced in the book in full colour and in its entirety), remarkably large (about seventy meters long by circa half a meter wide), and whose very survival, from the date of its creation in the second half of the eleventh century, has being nothing short of miracolous. It depicts the story of the Norman conquest of Britain in 1066, and this book is about the tapestry, the conquest, and much else. Written in a lively and engaging style, it starts by telling the story of the tapestry itself (or what is known of it), from the first inequivocal reference to its existence in 1476 (some four hundred years after its creation) through the dangerous times of the religious wars in France, the Revolution, the 2nd World War and the Nazi ocupation, until its present day location in a museum in Bayeux. After this, the book turns into the story depicted in the tapestry, telling what seems to be a rather consensual reading of it, and finally it gives the author's interpretations of certain more obscure aspects of the tapestry (Count Eustace's role, Turold the dwarf, Ælfgyva's episode, Wadard and Vital's significance) in a way that does make sense in relation to the rest of the story told by the tapestry, which is shown by the author to have several reading layers and to be rather removed from the linear piece of Norman propaganda that more convencional readings have postulated. An enticing book about a marvelous work of art, and historical document, whose close observation would by itself be a very good reason to visit Normandy! ( )
  FPdC | May 25, 2010 |
Andrew Bridgeford's "1066: The Hidden History in the Bayeux Tapestry" ran hot and cold for me, but for the most part was very interesting and offered an excellent analysis of the tapestry. The positives are that Bridgeford examines not only the story the Bayeux Tapestry tells (that is, the Norman invasion of England), but he also examines a bevy of hidden meanings and subtexts that may or may not be present in its famous pictures. He also gives a very captivating account of the tapestry's life since its creation, including a few close shaves while in the hands of Napoleon and, later, Hitler. The style is light and offers the right amount of analysis for a popular history. I also felt Bridgeford presented his opinion on some of the more mysterious aspects of the tapestry's creation and purpose in a balanced though still persuasive way.

One minor negative is that Bridgeport has a habit of getting over dramatic at times. Nothing too distracting, but now and then I felt it detracted from the otherwise scholarly-yet-readable tone of the book. Also, the occasional chapter drags. I'm more forgiving of this in unflinchingly textbook-like histories but this book is clearly meant to be for the casual historian. I could have done with a bit less information on the four mystery characters of the tapestry (the dwarf Turold; Aelfgyva; and the knights Wadard and VItal). They weren't totally uninteresting, they just could have been explained more briefly.

One very pleasant and surprising thing I got from "1066" was a spirited overview of the political situation in England following the death of Aethelred the Unready through to the ascension of Edward the Confessor. This is a sadly neglected period in the way of accessible histories. While I had already read a good dry, scholarly treatment of the era ("Unification and Conquest" by Pauline Stafford), I like to combine such books with a more general, lighter treatment: it helps me remember details and keep everything straight. Bridgeport provides us with that popular-history treatment in his chapter on Aelfgyva. I now have a much better handle on this pre-conquest stretch of time. I would even recommend reading just that chapter to help fill in the gap between Alfred the Great and the conquest even if you're not interested in the tapestry's whole story. Of course, if you are interested, I highly recommend reading the whole thing. ( )
  k8_not_kate | Nov 20, 2009 |
Quite engaging ( )
  Harrod | Dec 4, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0802777422, Paperback)

For more than 900 years the Bayeux Tapestry has preserved one of history's greatest dramas: the Norman Conquest of England, culminating in the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Historians have held for centuries that the majestic tapestry trumpets the glory of William the Conqueror and the victorious Normans. But is this true? In 1066, a brilliant piece of historical detective work, Andrew Bridgeford reveals a very different story that reinterprets and recasts the most decisive year in English history.

Reading the tapestry as if it were a written text, Bridgeford discovers a wealth of new information subversively and ingeniously encoded in the threads, which appears to undermine the Norman point of view while presenting a secret tale undetected for centuries-an account of the final years of Anglo-Saxon England quite different from the Norman version.

Bridgeford brings alive the turbulent 11th century in western Europe, a world of ambitious warrior bishops, court dwarfs, ruthless knights, and powerful women. 1066 offers readers a rare surprise-a book that reconsiders a long-accepted masterpiece, and sheds new light on a pivotal chapter of English history.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:57:19 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

For more than 900 years the Bayeux Tapestry has preserved one of history's greatest dramas: the Norman Conquest of England, culminating in the death of King Harold at the Battle of Hastings in 1066. Historians have held for centuries that the majestic tapestry trumpets the glory of William the Conqueror and the victorious Normans. But is this true? In 1066, a brilliant piece of historical detective work, Andrew Bridgeford reveals a very different story that reinterprets and recasts the most decisive year in English history. Reading the tapestry as if it were a written text, Bridgeford discovers a wealth of new information subversively and ingeniously encoded in the threads, which appears to undermine the Norman point of view while presenting a secret tale undetected for centuries-an account of the final years of Anglo-Saxon England quite different from the Norman version. Bridgeford brings alive the turbulent 11th century in western Europe, a world of ambitious warrior bishops, court dwarfs, ruthless knights, and powerful women. - Publisher.… (more)

» see all 2 descriptions

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