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The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings…

The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon… (2012)

by Marc Morris

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One fascinating, well-written book. Of course every educated person is aware of the significance of the date: 1066, but few know much about the human drama, cruelty, and suffering which ensued ... far beyond that fateful year. I have to confess that it was only a late recognition on my part that practically all the major participants in the affair are distant relatives ... that finally prompted me to purchase and read The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris.

It's one thing to read about anonymous people living a thousand years ago, but discovering that Norwegian King Harold Hardradde, evidently my 25th Great Grandfather, was killed at Stamford Bridge by King Harold Godwineson ... another 25th Great Grandfather from another branch of the same family (my paternal Grandfather) ... and that he in turn was apparently brutally killed at the Battle of Hastings by the forces of William the Conqueror ... a Great Uncle through my paternal Grandmother's family, truly makes the entire scenario a family affair. A person would have to be an unfeeling cad to pretend he isn't affected above and beyond the norm by the brutality of those events, and the suffering of distant member of his own family.

We read of William's brutal "Harrying of the North" almost as though they were akin to the passing of a storm, but in truth the consequences were not unlike events occurring during WWII, when entire communities were made to suffer, however innocent they were of the actions of others. The Norman Conquest was a barbarous affair ... the result of an overly ambitious, egotistical, self-centered individual who believed he had a right to rule over everyone else. Truth is .... others ... Harold Hardradde, Godwineson, indeed, William's own sons, seemed to believe the same things about themselves.

The consequences for most people of the Conquest went far beyond the simple matter of language, and it took at least 150 years before England began to absorb the Norman assault, which in truth was nothing more than a family quarrel gone wrong.
  Rood | May 20, 2019 |
My great......grandfather
  Shari0612 | Mar 28, 2019 |
This is probably the best book I've read on the period of the Norman Conquest, from about 1000 to Williams death in 1087. It turns out there is very little sourcing available from this time, so historians debate things like the emotion expressed on the face of an image on the Bayeux Tapestry. Combine this with the complexity of events and most histories tend to gloss the big picture. Morris is not afraid to go into details and controversy, but does so with clarity and presents what seem like sound conclusions and rationales. These layers of detail add texture and bring the age into three dimension.

It is not a military history despite the title, it's political and social. For example Morris shows how the process of civilization took small steps forward - the rise of Chivalry coincided with a decline in slavery and increased Catholic piety. It was the tentative beginnings of the 12th Century Renaissance.

Other works I've read on the Conquest have either been superficial or narrowly focused on the battle itself. With that said I don't think this would be a satisfying first read, for that I recommend 1066: The Year of the Conquest which is easier to follow but lacks the broad view and details needed to understand context and significance, but makes up for it with drama. ( )
2 vote Stbalbach | Nov 14, 2017 |
Marc Morris' The Norman Conquest is a splendid read that corrects many misconceptions about 1066. Among the most important are that England was being invaded by numerous outside forces, the Normans being but the most successful among them, that Harold Godwinson was only a summer king who ruled for less than a year. His family controlled the government of Edward the Confessor during his final years but lacked the legitimacy and the resources to prevent either a Norman or Danish push. Harold famously managed to contain the opportunistic Norwegian invasion but then rushed South too fast to defeat William at the coast. He should have collected the strength of his army first. His lack of legitimacy, however, made the waiting game a risky proposition. The Normans won not due to their military superiority but, similar to the Romans, thanks to their better logistics, use of mercenaries and fortifications.

The English could not sustain their resistance, especially as they were hardly ever united internally. Most of the time, they relied on external partners in Wales, Scotland, Denmark etc. who in case of success would have attempted to replace the Normans and hardly had given the English their liberties back. An important fact is also that it was not over in 1066 but the conquest and pacification continued until the 1070s with the complete purge and replacement of the English aristocrats by Norman ones (as documented in the two Domesday books). Curiously, it took the loss of first Normandy and later France to truly make the Normans English.

Given the martial title, I would have expected a bit more military account, especially the battle of Hastings is covered not as detailed as in other accounts. Morris' interest is in family politics and in the great cast of characters about whose stories he has written a wonderful book. ( )
  jcbrunner | Jan 31, 2015 |
This is an excellent look at the circumstances before, during and after the 1066 Conquest of England. Marc Morris tells the story using contemporary sources, explaining where some accounts differ and which accounts have missing information that must be inferred. I was particularly interested in the sections about the Bayeux Tapestry, where Morris compares the portrayals in the tapestry with the information provided in written documents (and I love the pictures of the Bayeux Tapestry itself). The whole book is solid and well grounded with endnotes, and it provides a list of the sources compared and quoted in the text. The only reason it doesn't get the full five stars is that I wanted more pictures of the Tapestry, or perhaps pictures of some of the other sources. I would recommend this book if you have an interest in the period and have read at least a little bit about it beforehand. ( )
  rabbitprincess | Jul 30, 2014 |
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To Peter my prince
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There have been many attempts to tell the story of he Norman Conquest during the past millennium, but none of them as successful as the contemporary version that told it in pictures.
Chapter 1
The Bayeux Tapestry begins with three men in conversation, two standing and one seated.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0091931452, Hardcover)

An epic tale, with violence at its heart, and a triumph of narrative history.
The Norman Conquest starts with the most decisive battle in English history and continues with dramatic rebellions and their ruthless suppression, eventually resulting in the creation of the English nation. The repercussions of the Conquest are with us still.
The book begins with the Saxon kings, specifically Edward the Confessor, and shows how England was in constant conflict as the English fell prey to both Vikings and Normans. In the north, King Harold destroys his Viking namesake at the battle of Stamford Bridge but immediately has to hurry south to confront William of Normandy at Hastings. His defeat, and the destruction of the Anglo-Saxon warrior caste, leads inexorably to William's forceful occupation of an unwilling country, and this is the ruthless story Marc Morris tells. It is a drama crammed with intrigue, bloodshed and betrayal, featuring vivid, almost deranged characters: Edward the Confessor, who spurns his queen in their marriage bed to spite her family, even though it spells the end of his own dynasty; the heroic King Harold, the hero of Stamford Bridge and the last Saxon king, who perjures himself, betrays his brother and puts aside his wife in his bid for the throne; William the Bastard, later known as the Conqueror, who assembles the mightiest invasion fleet in the middle ages and after unexpected success almost destroys the country he has won.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:17 -0400)

A riveting and authoritative history of the single most important event in English history: the Norman Conquest.

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