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1066: The Year of the Conquest

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  3,974 ratings  ·  309 reviews
Alternate cover for ISBN 10: 0140058508 / ISBN 13: 9780140058505

Everyone knows 1066 as the date of the Norman invasion and conquest of England. But how many of us can place that event in the context of the entire dramatic year in which it took place? From the death of Edward the Confessor in early January to the Christmas coronation of Duke William of Normandy, there is an
Paperback, 208 pages
Published August 27th 1981 by Penguin Books (first published 1977)
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Jason Koivu
Nov 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, history, war
The last time England was successfully conquered by a foreign army? 1066.

David Howarth takes a nearly thousand-year-old historical subject (well known by every British kid before they were allowed out of school I'd imagine) and retells the story in a most readable, almost fairytale way. This is not the most scholarly text on the subject, but it is one of the most enjoyable I've read.

It's especially enjoyable if you like a good underdog story, one where that lowly hero doesn't even win, but rath
Feb 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, war
David Howarth is another historian I would invite over to dinner every Sunday night if he lived nearby and weren’t already dead. I doubt he’d find me as delightful as I find him, but I’d try. Even if you have no interest in the Norman Conquest, this book is so enchantingly and clearly written that you’ll think you’ve stumbled into a particularly good novel about those zany folk in medieval England and France. Even better, Howarth was an accomplished sailor, so he can offer educated speculation a ...more
John David
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it
The year 1066 is so important, so vital to the course of European history, but somehow we manage to reduce it to “the Battle of Hastings.” That is largely what I was expecting with this short history by David Howarth, a popular historian better known for his takes on more recent history, including World War II and the Battle of Trafalgar. But the most popular battle of the Norman invasion takes up only one chapter of the book, with much of the rest providing a cultural and social history within ...more
Leonard Pierce
Jul 10, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The Great Man interpretation of history — the idea that civilization is driven by a few exceptional men of will who impose their vision on the world and shape the development of humanity — was never particularly true, but it’s only been recently that it stopped being taught. Most of what we learn of history in school is still driven by the reading of mankind as a record of impressive figures who rose to great moments, and by the memorization of significant dates in which those figures chose to e ...more
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2021
Edward the Confessor: I bequeath you the right to my kingdom in my passing.
William the Conqueror: All righty great-uncle cousin!
The Witan: Not so fast, William.
William the Conqueror: Whatchu talkin' bout witass?
The Witan: We have chosen Godwin's son, Harold Godwinson as Edward's rightful heir to the throne.
William the Conqueror: (talking to a bloated corpse) Is this true Edward?
Edward the Confessor: Silence
Harold Godwinson: Now, now, can't we just get along?
William the Conqueror: No.

The End.
Shawn Thrasher
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. David Howarth writes in a conversational style, and this short history of the Norman conquest of England is simple, and chatty. It was sort of like listening to a very eloquent and warm old man, perhaps your grandfather, tell a long, but fascinating story, you hanging on every word while curled up at his feet, a fire in the fireplace, you with a cup of cocoa, he with a whisky.
Maybe he has a pipe. Howarth writes like he knows the 950 plus year old people in this book, as if t
Jessica Worthington
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
This book is more storytelling and conjecture, than historical fact. The author says this in the beginning, because there is not enough history about it, plus the history it does have are written by the invaders to make them and their leader look more favorable.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The storytelling was on point and kept the reader interested.
Sarah -  All The Book Blog Names Are Taken
So fantastically written, I easily could have read it cover to cover in one sitting. Even knowing the outcome ahead of time, the story is still so engrossing that you can't help but keep turning the page.

I quite agree with Howarth's assessment of the principal characters; how he'd have liked King Harold, felt sorry for Tostig, and been terrified of William. Echoing my earlier comment, I'm not sure why he disliked Edward the Confessor so, perhaps I need to read more about King Edward. Harald is q
Erik Graff
May 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anglo-Americans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Bookman's Alley in Evanston is closing, the owner being up in his eighties. Since the announcement in the papers months ago there has been an ongoing sale, prices on the used books and paraphenalia going down thirty, now fifty percent. I picked up this slender volume along with a few others on the last walk to visit that place, the Amarynth and the Public Library, Bookman's owner assuring me that he'd be around for at least another month.

I'd read Howarth before, some of his WWII memoirs about No
Bibliobites  Veronica
Jan 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: school, history
Quick, interesting read; it's considered a "poplar history," for people like me who aren't wanting a super scholarly history book. I am adding it to Term 1 of Ambleside Online Year 7, as it fits right in with the historical time period. ...more
David Nichols
Feb 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, reviewed
THE YEAR OF THE CONQUEST is one of the most engrossing histories I have had the pleasure of reading, and probably the most engrossing book I've ever read about the Middle Ages. David Howarth was already an accomplished writer when he began his research, and the finished work, published in 1977, shows him at the peak of his descriptive and narrative powers. The author begins by summarizing life in eleventh-century England, characterizing the late Anglo-Saxon kingdom as quiet, self-sufficient, rur ...more
A little book with a big impact on my English history comprehension. The year 1066 didn't really register with me until later in life - being American it didn't make an impression on me like the year 1776. Now I know better. It changed the course of history including later American history. The Norman conquest smashed the British psyche and changed their view of themselves. In just a short while the British went from local rule with an elected king to being a conquered people under the iron Norm ...more
Mary Hemenway
Mar 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The events of 1066 changed European history. If you ever wondered why so many English words have French roots, you only need look at what happened in 1066. England's king died, another one was selected and the Duke of Normandy thought that the throne had been promised to him. What I hadn't realized previously was that the king of England had to fight the Vikings a short time prior to the Battle of Hastings. The cultural context is well laid out - it is easy to understand why each side didn't und ...more
Jordan Hatch
Sep 04, 2018 rated it liked it
The tale of the conquest of England by the Normans has been shaped like usual throughout history by the victors. This examination of the conquest and the events preceding it draws from both English and Norman sources. It is an interesting read and the author does a good job of describing the time period but it wasn't a page turner. ...more
Mar 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
A great little book that chronicles the infamous year in English history that began with the death of King Edward and ended with the battle of Hastings and the ascension of William the Conqueror, changing England forever. Howarth carefully compares the subjective written accounts of these events and offers his own reasoned opinions. Although William's conquest might appear inevitable to us today, Howarth offers any number of happenstances that occurred which could have changed the outcome - from ...more
Jan 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, nonfiction
As long as I can remember I have known that William of Normandy invaded and conquered England in 1066, but that has been the extent of my knowledge of the subject until I read this book.
While portions of this book are, of necessity, conjecture (because the events described transpired nearly 1,000 years ago; and because, as always, the winner writes the history), the author makes it very clear what each of the sources says, what is fact, what is clearly fabrication or embellishment, what is his o
Dec 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
Not knowing a lot about British History, and hearing that the Battle of Hastings was one of the most important events in British history, I felt the need to read this book. '1066: The Year of the Conquest,' not only proved to be informative, but very interesting as well. David Howarth used contemporary sources to tell the story, while trying not to be too biased about the events, and he was able to make me empathize with several of the important characters in the story, even though they opposed ...more
May 31, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in history
Shelves: audiobook, history
I am an English major, and part of my course work including English history and linguistics. So I had a basic understanding of how the Normans had influenced England. But until I read this book, I never had a clear idea of what England was like BEFORE the Normans showed up. As I listened to this one, I have to admit that my sympathies (and clearly those of the author) were firmly with the English. Harold was a good king and would have served the English well. William's arrival was nothing short ...more
Mar 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a fantastic little book about the Norman conquest of England, a piece of history I was rather oblivious to until recently. This is primarily a book about what it was like for an Englishman in 1066 and the conditions that led to the invasion, or rather, invasions. Snorri Sturleson's Icelandic Saga, Heimskringla, provides the best account of Harald Hardrada's invasion, which I'm sure to be reviewing at some point in the future. As for William the Conqueror's invasion, no English accounts s ...more
Jan 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is not a comprehensive history of the Battle of Hastings, and it is not meant to be. It is a great storyteller's version of events as he understands them.

Howarth uses mostly contemporaneous writings (17 of his 20 sources are within 100 years of the Battle of Hastings) to decipher and tell the history of the battle between King Harold of England and William the Conqueror of Normandy. He infuses the book with his own point of view, which at times can be borderline Francophobic. "[William] was
Adrian Sprague
Oct 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A thoroughly interesting book, and I can say I walked away with a pretty decent general overview of what happened in the year 1066. Reading this though really made me think about a lot of different things, like how old the world is, how advanced people are, and how young America is. 1066 seems like such a long time ago yet the people were reasonable people who could think and make decisions just like us. I know that’s probably not that big of a revelation but I think there’s a huge disconnect be ...more
An Idler
Jan 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
As an American student, I didn't really study the Norman Conquest. Howarth's book is an eminently readable introduction to the milieu, characters, and basic events of 1066. He makes compelling deductions and inferences from the various conflicting sources, paints a very human portrait of the place and time in which the Conquest took place, and writes with a light and clear prose style. I enjoyed every page of it and plan to read more Howarth in the near future. ...more
Justin Dornbusch
Jul 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Howarth gives us more of a popular history than a scholarly history, but with plenty of references to the mostly Norman and French sources about the principals. A combination of shifting politics at court and a childless king is seldom a good thing for medieval kingdoms. Easy to see how this spiraled: Edward surrounded by ambitious Godwins attached himself to more Normans at court, and then later reversed to favoring Godwin and his family. It was probably inevitable that this many competing clai ...more
Dec 14, 2020 rated it it was ok
Kind of a good overview of what happened that year though the writing is fairly ... basic.
May 27, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This is definitely an introductory text - less academic than conversational - but it's also from the 70s, so take it with a grain of salt. The writing is entertaining throughout, however, and certainly does its best to paint a more nuanced and well-rounded portrait of the socio-political climate of the time, beyond just "the Battle of Hastings." ...more
Jan 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Jaw dropping, interesting, profound! LOVED this historic read. I knew that William conquered England, I knew he brought the Norman culture and built castles, I knew that the french influence lasted for 300 years...but I did not really understand the implications to the english! Howarth is THE BEST historian; he discussed the ancient Norman vs Anglo sources, then came to a conclusion about the most likely truth. I loved that! Before the conquest, england did not have, or need, castles...William b ...more
Sep 06, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Fearsome History Geeks
Shelves: british-history
I just really liked how Howarth meticulously, joyfully crawls inside an iconic event in British history -the Battle of Hastings-to reveal the underlying moving parts. Most people don't grasp how unruly and organic the modes of power were in the middle-ages, since all we know of Europe is really the shit that happened after the Industrial Revolution. To have a skilled historian like Howarth guide you through an alien time period doesn't eliminate the mystery of understanding but it does enhance i ...more
Jul 09, 2010 rated it it was amazing
A fantastic history book, but still for an academic audience. That said, it's the most accessable academic history book I've read (though I haven't read a whole bunch). Reviews of the book talk about his wit and, compared to a lot of similar historians, he has it.

He gives a great view of the daily life of Englanders before the Normans and, though he does seem a little "Anglo-centric" at times, it is definitely a good read.
May 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This book is in my top favorites I've read so far this year. Howarth details the events in the year leading up to the Norman conquest of England. He also gives a clear picture of what daily life was like in the Middle Ages for nobles and villagers alike. The battles don't come until near the end of the book. I didn't find them to be too gory or full of boring strategy details. Howarth makes history entirely readable in this short, engaging book. ...more
Oct 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: History buffs
A history book that reads like a story? I loved that the author takes several different accounts of the time and uses his common sense and available historic knowledge to deliver his history of England in 1066. Although he claims to be unbiased it is obvious that he is an Englishman writing about a country that he loves dearly. A great book, easy reading.
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David Armine Howarth (1912 - 1991) was a British historian and author. After graduating from Cambridge University, he was a radio war correspondent for BBC at the start of the Second World War, joining the Navy after the fall of France. He rose to the rank of lieutenant commander and spent four yeas in the Shetland Islands, becoming second in command of the Shetland Naval base. He was involved in ...more

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