Format Hardcover
Publication Date 06/04/13
ISBN 9781605984513
Trim Size / Pages 9.3 x 6.3 in / 464

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The Norman Conquest

The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England

Marc Morris

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

An upstart French duke who sets out to conquer the most powerful and unified kingdom in Christendom.An invasion force on a scale not seen since the days of the Romans. One of the bloodiest and most decisive battles ever fought. 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.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.

Marc Morris, PhD, is an historian and broadcaster, specializing in the Middle Ages. An expert on medieval monarchy and aristocracy, Marc has written numerous articles for History Today, BBC History Magazine and Heritage Today; he speaks regularly to schools, historical societies, and literary festivals, and also leads specialist tours of UK castles. He is a fellow of the Royal Historical Society and lives in England.

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Endorsements & Reviews

Morris brilliantly revisits the Norman Conquest, “the single most important event in English history,” by following the body-strewn fortunes of its key players: England’s King Edward the Confessor; his hated father-in-law and England’s premier earl, Godwine; Harold II, the prior’s son and England’s last Anglo-Saxon king; and Edward’s cousin William, the fearsome duke of Normandy, known by contemporaries as “the Bastard” and by posterity as “the Conqueror.” Miraculously surviving a Viking invasion, exile, the death of six older half-brothers (from battle, illness, and execution), and his mother’s perfidies, Edward—a descendant of Alfred the Great—took the English crown but was dominated by his father-in-law. Yet to Godwine’s chagrin, Edward chose William as his successor in return for his loyalty. Nevertheless, after Edward’s death, Harold snatched the crown, setting in motion William’s invasion and his own death at the supremely gory Battle of Hastings. In England, William and the Normans ended slavery, dispossessed the English ruling elite of their lands, ushered in an architectural revolution, zealously reformed the Church, and savagely starved the north into submission. Readable, authoritative, and remarkably nuanced, Morris’s history is sublime. 8 pages of color illus., two maps, and two family trees.” Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW
“A lively subject, depicted with dash and color, brought to bright life with telling detail. Morris gives a compelling account of the invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066 and the violent struggle thereafter. Morris provides a much-needed, modern account of the Normans in England that respects past events more than present ideologies.” The TImes (London)
The story of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England is hardly new, but the situations that prompted it on both sides of the English Channel have never been told in so much depth. A historian who specializes in the Middle Ages, especially that period’s monarchies and aristocracy, Morris takes thoroughness to new heights as he compares all the available sources in this valuable text. The French relied on the writings of William of Jumieges, chaplain to William; the Bayeux Tapestry commissioned by William’s half brother, Bishop Odo; and the work of Orderic Vitalis, an Anglo-Norman born in 1075. The English viewpoint comes from the anonymously penned Life of King Edward and the Anglo-Saxon Chronicles. The difficulty with the Chronicles is that it was copied by different monasteries, each skewing facts to fit their particular patron’s viewpoint. There is no doubt that King Edward the Confessor was king in name only; Earl Godwin’s family was effectively ruling England during Edward’s reign. His daughter married Edward, and his sons, including Harold (he of the arrow in the eye), held all England save Mercia. No wonder they felt the crown was rightfully theirs. William’s abilities and the Vikings' support of brother Tostig’s greed proved them wrong. The most important source for the actual invasion is Song of the Battle of Hastings, a contemporary epic poem only discovered in the early-19th century. The English rebelled against foreign rule, new language and customs for five more years before a semblance of order was established. The author includes useful maps, an expansive genealogical tree and extensive notes. A thoroughly enjoyable book from an historian’s historian who can write for the masses. Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW
“Marc Morris’s lively new book retells the story of the Norman invasion with vigor and narrative urgency. A stirring account of 1066 with a firm grip on the thrust and style of a popular history.” The Evening Standard
“Uncommonly good. It’s compelling stuff.” The Daily Telegraph