Given the extremely limited sources we have – and most are, after all, written by the victors – Morris does his best to try and make sense of all sides of his dramatic turning point in English history.
For many an English person of a certain vintage, the year 1066 CE is the be-all and end-all of English history.
How many millions of English children were, up until recently, drilled on the importance of the Norman conquests led by William I, Duke of Normandy?
This date was when the Normans, led by the brilliant William, succeeded in what their Viking brethren had failed to do over the preceding two centuries: launch an invasion that would swiftly subjugate the Anglo-Saxon political and military elite and conquer all of England.
A fresh approach to a famous history
What separates The Norman Conquest - The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England from other more studied histories of "Hastings and all that..." is that Morris goes beyond the usual tropes of the social, economic, and political conditions that made England a rich, juicy apple waiting to be plucked by William and his Norman brethren.
A detailed analysis of the seismic social changes – from the appearance of castles on the English horizon to the wholescale linguistic impact of the new Norman tongue on Anglo-Saxon, the rewriting of almost every single Church law to why the Normans military prowess was so decisive at Hastings – helps paint a more detailed history of the conquest and its consequences.
Throughout the book, Morris explains just how William, an upstart duke who was labeled a "bastard," launched the most decisive invasion of England since the Roman Empire and ended up starting a dynasty whose descendants are still on the English throne today.
The climax - the Battle of Hastings
The climax, of course, is the Battle of Hastings, which surely is one of the most known yet least understood battles in world history.
Each page drips with verve, dramatic tension, and well-rounded characterization, an utter freshness for this staid and studied period of English history.
William the Conqueror was said to have fallen off his boat onto English soil, spearheading the first wave of the Norman invasion.
Recomposing himself, he then grabbed a handful of sand and uttered - probably apocryphally but witty nonetheless – that he had "taken England with both hands."
We here at The Viking Herald suggest that you, like William, fall into this brilliant book and seize it with both hands.
The Norman Conquest: The Battle of Hastings and the Fall of Anglo-Saxon England by Marc Morris is available to buy on Amazon here.
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