Paula Lofting's Reviews > The Norman Conquest

The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris
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's review
Jul 12, 2012

it was amazing
Read from July 12 to December 03, 2012

The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris
"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 riveting book explains why the Norman Conquest was the single most important event 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 unravelled, 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 and the violent 'Harrying of the North'; the sudden introduction of castles and the wholesale rebuilding of every major church; the total destruction of an ancient ruling class. Language, law, architecture, even attitudes towards life itself were altered forever by the coming of the Normans.
Marc Morris, author of the bestselling biography of Edward I, A Great and Terrible King, approaches the Conquest with the same passion, verve and scrupulous concern for historical accuracy. This is the definitive account for our times of an extraordinary story, a pivotal moment in the shaping of the English nation."

I had heard many good things about this author who had written 3 other historical non-fiction books so I was very much looking forward to reading this,hoping that it would give a balanced view of both sides of the conquest, the English and the Norman. I am very much down with the English as far as the Conquest of 1066 is concerned and have read books in order to find a discerning view of the events of the invasion and the years that followed so I can at least attempt to empathise with the Normans even if only in a small way. Some of the books I have read have strived to show the facts without appearing to be biased one way or another, but no matter how dryly the evidence is presented,they struggle to show the Norman's in anything but a bad light. This book was no different. The Normans were indeed the Nasty Normans, confirming once and for all that my sympathies fall completely on the right side.
The opening pages of this book show useful maps of England and Normandy at the time of the Conquest and there are also family trees to assist the reader in knowing who is who. In his introduction there are a few things that I would not agree with, especially his reasoning about the status of women in pre-conquest England, however opinions about this often vary and I was not going to get too stuck on one little thing. He does state that he has tried to be as balanced and fair as he possibly can. He himself states that he has no particular fondness for either side, choosing to describe the Normans as coming across as "arrogant, warlike, inordinately pleased with themselves and holier than thou." He also calls the 11th Century English as binge drinking slavers and political murderers. These are very sweeping judgemental statements and I was not happy to read the last one in particular, thinking that I was not going to enjoy this book after all.
However I was wrong. Marc Morris's analyses of the events during and after the conquest were fair and just and considering what the Normans did to the conquering English, he appears to remain impartial without becoming emotive. I found it difficult however not to be moved especially when reading about the plight of the Northerners who were left with nothing to feed themselves after William's harrying of the North. If anyone had thought highly of William and his avaricious Normans, I challenge them not to be affected by the evidence. Despite what other historians have had us believe, Morris porves that the Harrying of the North DID happen.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to read more about this exciting, emotional period of history.
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Reading Progress

11/06/2012 page 285
61.0% "A brillliant even balanced account of The Norman invasion"

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