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A brilliant global history of the Normans, who—beyond the conquest of England—spread their empire to eventually dominate Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East.
14th October 1066.
As Harold II, the last crowned Anglo-Saxon king of England, lay dying in Sussex, the Duke of Normandy was celebrating an unlikely victory. William "The Bastard" had emerged from interloper to successor of the Norman throne. He had survived the carnage of the Battle of Hastings and, two months later on Christmas day, he would be crowned king of England. No longer would Anglo-Saxons or Vikings rule England; this was now the age of the Normans.
A momentous event in European history, the defeat of the Anglo-Saxons had the most dramatic effect of any defeat in the high Middle Ages. In a few short months, the leader of northern France became the dominant ruler of Britain. Over the coming decades, the Anglo-Saxon kingdom would be rebuilt around a new landowning class. During the next century, as the Norman kings laid the foundations of modern Britain, their power would spread irresistibly across Europe. From Scandinavia down to Sicily, Malta, and Seville, the Normans built magnificent castles and churches. They cerated a new Europe in the image of their own nobility, recording their power with unprecedented vision, including the Domesday Book.
Empire of the Normans tells the extraordinary story of how the descendants of Viking marauders in northern France came to dominate European, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern politics. It is a tale of ambitious adventures and fierce pirates, of fortunes made and fortunes lost. Across the generations, the Normans made their influence felt across Western Europe and the Mediterranean, from the British Isles to North Africa and even to the Holy Land, with a combination of military might, political savvy, deeply held religious beliefs, and a profound sense of their own destiny.
Levi Roach studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, and at Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. A former fellow at St John's College, Cambridge, he is now a senior lecturer at the University of Exeter. His first book Æthelred the Unready (Yale University Press) was awarded the Longman-History Today prize. He lives in Exeter, England.
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Advance Praise for Empires of the Normans:
"Narrated with pace, clarity, authority and style, Roach's book is a bracing tour of the world that the Normans made their own." Thomas Williams, bestselling author of Viking Britain
"A fresh retelling of the story of the Normans, across all their theatres of operation - academically up-to-the-minute, sound in its judgements, and written with enthusiasm and brio" Marc Morris, bestselling author of The Anglo Saxons
"From Viking raiders to rulers of the Mediterranean, the Normans dominated and dazzled medieval Europe. In this fascinating, panoramic account, Levi Roach brings an expert eye and page-turning energy to the telling of their extraordinary story" Helen Castor, bestselling author of She Wolves
“Roach makes us step back, makes us see the Normans and their many threads, how they were interwoven into the fabric of medieval Europe – and he does so in an accessible style, using the best recent research. The Normans were, as he says, everywhere and nowhere, and their varied experiences come alive in this retelling." Matthew Gabriele, professor and author of The Bright Ages: A New History of Medieval Europe
"Medievalist Roach (Aethelred the Unready) examines in this expert account the profound impact of the Normans on European history. Roach spotlights lesser-known aspects of Norman history, including their presence in southern Italy, Sicily, and North Africa; the role of Norman forces in Byzantine Asia Minor and the Crusades; and their influence on Welsh, Scottish, and Irish culture...Roach is a lucid explainer of dynastic history. This is a well-informed and comprehensive introduction to the Norman legacy." Publishers Weekly
Praise for Æthelred the Unready:
Winner of the Longman-History Today Prize
"Research across an exceptionally wide range of early medieval European lands, underpin Levi Roach’s fresh account of the life and reign of Æthelred II. With a keen comparative appreciation of contemporary European societies, Roach assesses Æthelred’s many dimensions. This is a book for experts and students alike." Jinty Nelson, professor emeritus, King’s College London
"Levi Roach offers new insights into one of the darker yet most fascinating epochs in English history. His is a masterly account: a scholarly adventure story here for the first time set out in true context and vibrant detail." Nicholas Vincent, author of Magna Carta
"This was an extraordinary period of English history, and there is a widening gap between academic writing about it and the general reader. A compelling and impressive picture of what was going on at the court of Aethelred." David Crane The Spectator
“Roach successfully steers us to a real appreciation of how faith, martial prowess, an impulsive personality and the huge challenges of the Viking invasions interacted to place almost impossible constraints on Aethelred. A welcome addition to the corpus of works on an unjustifiably neglected era of English history." The Literary Review