Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The Norman Conquest of England


Rating: 4 Stars


I grabbed this one for cheap at Half Price Books in the World History section a few months ago and finally got around to. It is a quick read about a subject very near and dear to my heart, so when I quickly realized it is geared toward a younger audience, I didn't even mind. Sometimes it is nice to read something quick and easy like this about a topic one is already well-acquainted with, it is like a catching-up conversation with an old friend.

There is certainly nothing new here in terms of the battles themselves. The author does a fantastic job covering this complex issue in an easy way for a younger audience to understand. Not easy, considering all parties involved.

A modern fact I was pleased to learn is that since 2003, King Harold has been celebrated with his own day at Waltham Abbey, where a yearly festival offers a variety of events for visitors, such as crafts, music, medieval food, and weapons displays. I find this especially important, given the  controversy surrounding the Norman Invasion. I do believe that even if Harold swore an allegiance to William while stranded in Normandy, what choice did he have? He surely would have been held captive if he did not. Whether or not King Edward (the Confessor) had chosen Harold as his successor, the Witan had to confirm the appointment and it seems that they did in fact approve of Harold becoming the next king of England. By all accounts that come down to us through the centuries, he was a strong leader and it is interesting to think often about how different England might look today had the invasion not been successful.

The book does go into some detail about this idea, and specifically looks at the Bayeux Tapestry and its importance after the battle. But because of the short length there is not room for any real in-depth exploration of the possibilities, and no mention at all of the Aethelings - Edmund Ironside's sons who were rightful heirs by blood.

In addition to chapters detailing life in Anglo-Saxon England, Kings of England, the Invasion, the aftermath, and so on, there is a plethora of resources in the index for young scholars who are interested in further research. There is information about primary source documents, sections of the Bayeux Tapestry in Latin and the translations for certain panels, a timeline of events from B.C. and the first people on the island, a glossary, and even a short section on some of our modern words and where in the old English that they came from. Word play like that is always interesting to me so I was glad to see something like that in a book geared toward a younger audience, as this is not something they might typically learn.

Overall, this is something that would be primarily aimed at middle or high schoolers, depending on their reading level. For anyone already familiar with this topic, and older readers, there won't be much in the way of new information. Still, I can recommend it for those with interest but little knowledge of the Invasion.

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