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The Normans: Power, Conquest and Culture in 11th Century Europe

by Judith A. Green

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663402,442 (3)5
"A bold new history of the rise and expansion of the Norman Dynasty across Europe from Byzantium to England. In the eleventh century the climate was improving, population was growing, and people were on the move. The Norman dynasty ranged across Europe, led by men who achieved lasting fame like William the Conqueror and Robert Guiscard. These figures cultivated an image of unstoppable Norman success and their victories make for a great story, but how much of it is true? In this insightful history, Judith Green challenges old certainties and explores the reality of Norman life across the continent. There were many soldiers of fortune, but their successes were down to timing, good luck, and ruthless leadership. Green shows the Normans' profound impact, from drastic change in England to laying the foundations for unification in Sicily, to their contribution to the First Crusade. Going beyond the familiar, she looks at personal dynastic relationships and the important part women played in what at first sight seems a resolutely masculine world."--… (more)
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Last year, when I was reading Trevor Rowley's "The Normans," I came away somewhat dissatisfied with Rowley's dated narrative style, and having further questions I wished that I had a more contemporary treatment at hand. I was therefor delighted to discover that Green's examination of the topic was out, and moved that to the head of the TBR queue. Unfortunately, I'm still left with some basic questions after reading this monograph.

Here's the thing, Prof. Green's real agenda seems to be the dismantling of the mystique various Norman rulers built for themselves, and critiquing the sources that have been left for us; not adding to the mystique. However, Green has to admit that, in their prime, the Normans generally did win their battles. This is unless they were just faced with insurmountable numbers, and some times not even then; victory does have a way of generating its own mystique. As for the questions I had about the sources of Norman military art, Green tends to emphasize a knack for logistics, but does make one passing observation that Norman armies do seem to have been more willing to trust in the full-fledged cavalry charge than most of their competition; again, the most romantic of all military maneuvers.

On the plus side, I was given food for thought when it came to Norman political maneuvering, but this really isn't a book with for the general reader, and they still might be happier reading Rowley or J.J. Norwich. ( )
  Shrike58 | Mar 15, 2024 |
Confusing at times. Having read the books written by John Julius Norwich and Marc Morris on the Normans and books on Bohemond, I bought this book following a review on a podcast. I hoped it would add to my knowledge but at times I found myself frustrated by what appeared to be a lack of attention to detail. I keep having to re-read sections to check that I have confused a son with a nephew or Peter Bartholomew with Peter the Hermit. The premise of the book appears to be just how influential were the Normans, who were they but what did they achieve? The book achieves this but in my opinion, not terribly well. I have nearly given up on it several times. A real pity as the author has put a lot of effort into the research but.... ( )
  guidoLiguori | Dec 13, 2023 |
I will preface this review by saying - reader beware.! This is not a casual and cursory look at the Normans that will appeal to the general masses; it is a more focused narrative that assumes that you - the reader - have done your due diligence and a sufficient enough grasp of the topic at hand to absorb the information contained therein.

The focus of Green's book is the Normans and their activities as related to a specific time period - the 11th Century - and is narrowed down to particular theatres of war - England, Normandy, Byzantium, Sicily & Southern Italy, Antioch & the Holy Land. It is also a look at how contemporary writers and chroniclers viewed them as well as their own perceptions of self.

Green notes that 11th Century Europe was swarming with armed men who for for wealth, land and prestige. So what made this particular group that much more successful than others - this is what is explored. Green includes a number of prominent families in her narrative, as well as some much lesser ones (which are the ones I am always on the look out for).

Their legacy, in the form of conquest, assimilation, government, religious and cultural developments, and their all important art of warfare are covered off. Green notes that they were - in essence - "... ruthless opportunists [who] were able to change the political history of Europe ...".

This is definitely one for my own library shelves, and my own personal collection of Norman literature.

see fuller review @ Melisende's Library ( )
  Melisende | Apr 17, 2022 |
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"A bold new history of the rise and expansion of the Norman Dynasty across Europe from Byzantium to England. In the eleventh century the climate was improving, population was growing, and people were on the move. The Norman dynasty ranged across Europe, led by men who achieved lasting fame like William the Conqueror and Robert Guiscard. These figures cultivated an image of unstoppable Norman success and their victories make for a great story, but how much of it is true? In this insightful history, Judith Green challenges old certainties and explores the reality of Norman life across the continent. There were many soldiers of fortune, but their successes were down to timing, good luck, and ruthless leadership. Green shows the Normans' profound impact, from drastic change in England to laying the foundations for unification in Sicily, to their contribution to the First Crusade. Going beyond the familiar, she looks at personal dynastic relationships and the important part women played in what at first sight seems a resolutely masculine world."--

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