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About this book

1066 is still one of the most memorable dates in British history. In this accessible text, Brian Golding explores the background to the Norman invasion, the process of colonisation, and the impact of the Normans on English society.

Thoroughly revised and updated in light of the latest scholarship, the Second Edition of this established text features entirely new sections on:

• the colonisation of towns
• women and the Conquest
• the impact of the Conquest on the peasantry.

Ideal for students, scholars and general readers alike, Conquest and Colonisation is an essential introduction to this pivotal period in British history.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. The Sources

Abstract
For most contemporary chroniclers, the Norman Conquest was a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom they knew nothing. Few noticed it: those that did sometimes got its date wrong. Hardly surprisingly, only Anglo-Saxon and Norman writers were concerned with events leading to Hastings, and its aftermath: their interpretations were inevitably coloured either by the despair of defeat or by the triumph of victory. On one thing alone they were united: in assessing this trial by battle, neither blamed the referee — God’s judgement was unquestioned.1
Brian Golding

Chapter 2. Prelude to the Conquest

Abstract
In 991 King Aethelred II of England made an agreement, brokered by the pope, with Duke Richard II of Normandy. Peace was sworn and they promised not to shield each other’s enemies. In 1002 this alliance was strengthened by the English king’s marriage to Richard’s sister, Emma, though this did not apparently prevent an English invasion of the Cotentin (recorded by William of Jumièges alone) shortly afterwards, presumably as a pre-emptive strike against Viking raids that might be launched from Norman bases. Relations between England and Normandy continued uncertain for the remainder of the reign, and some later sources suggest negotiations took place between King Swegn of Denmark and Richard II as the former planned his attack on Aethelred.1
Brian Golding

Chapter 3. The Norman Conquest, 1066–1100

Abstract
By the end of 1065, Edward had probably been ill for some time. The magnates who gathered for the consecration of the new Westminster abbey during the Christmas festivities must have guessed that they would soon need to elect a new king. The crisis could not have come at a worse time. A few weeks earlier the Northumbrians had finally risen against the harsh rule of their earl, Tostig. His appeal to Edward and to his brother, Harold, to restore him to authority had been turned down. As a consequence he had broken with Harold, and fled to take refuge with his wife’s family at the court of Flanders. Only Edgar aetheling had close kinship ties with the dying king. Some may have considered his claim, as William of Malmesbury reports; at one point William even suggests that Edgar was nominated by Edward.1 After Hastings, the surviving native magnates were prepared to back Edgar faute de mieux; Brand, the incoming abbot of Peterborough, was so rash as to send to Edgar for confirmation of office. But it must have been obvious to the majority both before and after Hastings that Edgar was too inexperienced a figure to provide a rallying point.2 That left Harold and, if the Norman chroniclers are accepted, William.
Brian Golding

Chapter 4. Settlement and Colonisation

Abstract
According to Orderic Vitalis, Gilbert d’Auffay fought loyally with his vassals in all the major battles of the ‘English war’. But when the country was pacified, Gilbert returned to Normandy, since, though the king offered him great estates in England, ‘he declined to have any part in plunder. Content with his own, he rejected other men’s goods’.1 How far this story can be taken at face value is unclear; Orderic knew the family well, since they were generous benefactors of St Evroul, and Domesday indicates that in 1086 Gilbert indeed held nothing in England. The attitude portrayed here is paralleled by Orderic’s account of his fellow-monk Guitmond’s reluctance to take ecclesiastical spoils of office in England, and the two stories are probably included to indicate the chronicler’s less than wholehearted support for Norman seizure of English lands.2 A similar story is told by William of Malmesbury of Roger de Beaumont, who allegedly refused lands that did not belong to him, in spite of King William’s frequent urgings that he should avail himself of the opportunities that England offered.3 Whatever the truth of these accounts, Gilbert and Roger are the only Normans who are anywhere said to have had scruples, and to have refused what the king and his followers regarded as legitimate spoils of conquest.
Brian Golding

Chapter 5. Governing the Conquered

Abstract
England not only had to be conquered: it had to be governed. In administrative (as in so many other) terms England was already an ‘old country’: in some regions, particularly the north, but also observable elsewhere, as in Kent for instance, institutions of government and the exercise of lordship were now centuries old, perhaps predating the Saxon settlement in origin.’ That the kingdom was the most ‘organised’ state in western Europe in the eleventh century is generally recognised. By 1066 the whole country, with the exception of the region north of the Tees to the east and the Mersey to the west, the Pennines, and the anomalous region of the latter-day shire of Rutland, was divided into shires, which were further subdivided into hundreds or wapentakes, which were the fundamental units of local administration. Though the shires were not of uniform creation, and though local customs continued to operate within the shire structure, the establishment and expansion of West-Saxon rule throughout most of the country during the tenth century gave a degree of organisational cohesion to the structure of local government.2 Each shire usually contained a number of hides, on which taxation and military burdens were assessed. The hide itself, it has been argued, has its roots, or at the very least parallels, in early Irish society.
Brian Golding

Chapter 6. Military Organisation

Abstract
Post-Conquest Anglo-Norman society was a society organised for war. In this it was, of course, typical of its age. Though we cannot talk of a ‘war economy’ in the eleventh century, the Anglo-Norman kings spent at least as much of the country’s resources on war and preparation for war as any modern totalitarian regime.1 The bulk of royal taxation was employed for military purposes; the agents of royal government were first and foremost military men; land tenure was determined by royal and aristocratic need for armed forces. Yet how this society was organised remains the most vexed matter of all. How far did the Norman colonists depend on Anglo-Saxon practice? How far were they innovatory? How much did the mounted knights contribute to the armed strength of Anglo-Norman England, and when and how was knight service introduced? These are weighty questions. Their hypothetical solutions owe much to the prejudices — including those of race and politics — of contemporary historians; just as they have since the seventeenth century.
Brian Golding

Chapter 7. A Colonial Church?

Abstract
Writing at the beginning of the twelfth century, Eadmer of Canterbury thought that ‘all things, spiritual and temporal, waited on the nod of the king [i.e. William I]’.1 The king controlled all communication with the pope, approved all measures laid down in ecclesiastical synods, and only by his express leave could bishops impose canonical sanctions for grave moral offences on his barons and ministers. To Eadmer, William had brought from Normandy a heritage of tight secular control over the Church, which he then successfully imposed upon its English counterpart. There can be no doubt that William I took an active interest in the affairs of the Anglo-Norman Church, nor that William Rufus was equally forceful, if less diplomatic. Yet when we look at the post-Conquest Church, it is hard to evaluate what developments were directly attributable to the Normans. Many changes were the result of new policies and ideologies affecting the Western Church, and emanating primarily (but not exclusively) from Rome.2 By introducing bishops and abbots from Normandy and beyond, William may have accelerated the pace of change, but he did not alter its direction. Continental bishops of integrity and learning had been chosen by the Confessor; an English bishop, Wulfstan of Worcester, represented all that was best in the secular Church.
Brian Golding

Chapter 8. Anglo-Norman England

Abstract
Finally, and most fundamentally, how far was Britain Normanised by 1100, and conversely, to what extent was Normandy anglicised? In what is still the most ranging and influential analysis of the Normans in medieval western Europe, le Patourel presented a ‘Norman Empire’.1 He argued that notwithstanding the fact that the Norman state was not akin to the Roman Empire of the past, or its eleventh-century reincarnations — though this did not prevent Norman chroniclers comparing Duke William favourably with Julius Caesar — it did possess imperial characteristics. This ‘empire’ had a fundamental though fragile unity, which was fractured, once between 1087 and 1106 and again, for ever, in 1135, to be replaced a generation later by the ‘Angevin Empire’.2 The indivisibility of Normandy and England after the Conquest is central to le Patourel’s analysis; these states lay at the empire’s core, but the Anglo-Norman kings also had territorial and perhaps ‘imperial’ ambitions elsewhere on both sides of the Channel, in Maine, Brittany, Wales, Scotland and even Ireland. In a critique of this thesis, Bates suggested that this model is too simplistic.3 He argues that the Norman dynamic should be seen in the context of a wider expansionism, in which all French principalities needed to participate in order to survive.
Brian Golding
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