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William I: England's Conqueror (Penguin Monarchs)

av Marc Morris

Serier: Penguin Monarchs (5)

MedlemmarRecensionerPopularitetGenomsnittligt betygOmnämnanden
792342,946 (3.86)4
'While he wore the crown, England experienced greater and more seismic change than at any point before or since' On Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned the first Norman king of England. Marc Morris's concise, gripping biography sifts through the sources of the time to give a fresh view of the man who changed the country more than any other, as old ruling elites were swept away, enemies crushed and the map of the nation itself redrawn, culminating in the Domesday Book.… (mer)
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Most of my history reading in the last decade and a half had been either for times around and after the invention of the printing press or prehistory. The first have a lot of sources - even when calamities happened, there were copies around. The latter was way too early for any sources (written ones anyway - the flints, arrowheads and pottery tell their own story). And the records for kinds usually are detailed to know their actions day per day and sometimes even hourly.

Except this is the 11th century. It is understandable that there won't be that many sources about William as a child or even as a young man - he was an illegitimate son of a duke of Normandy - noone expected him to become anything special. Even when he became the Duke of Normandy, he was still pretty much nobody. What I did not expect was that the record will be as sparse after he became a king - forget about daily records, there are months and years when it is unclear if the king of England was in England or in Normandy.

Marc Morris wrote a book about the Norman invasion and the start of this one is basically a shortened version of that previous book. The story of William is the story of England - so the story of William is told by the story of the people around him. It is partially because of the lack of sources and partially because his raise and then his time as a king is as much as a function of his abilities as it is a function of the behavior of other people.

The side effect of that is that it made me look for more information about other people - such as Emma, the daughter of the Norman duke who was also the early 11th century queen of England twice and then mother-queen twice after that -- at the times when the crown was passing between the vikings and the Anglo-Saxons.

But back to William. Some things I did not know (or had not connected the dots on):
- The Normans may be French but their first duke of that line started as a viking who came, conquered Normandy and ended up speaking French (and then William made it into England and even if the English did not start speaking French, French managed to get into the language). French is invasive.
- I believed that William was something absolutely new in England - that he came in from nowhere. Well... he appears to have almost as good claim as Henry Tudor has 4 centuries later. So the whole plan of "read the Penguin book and move on" won't work - I want more.
- The Bayeux Tapestry and the Doomsday Book, two of the major documents from the high middle ages are both created during the reign of William - thus allowing us to know a LOT about the 11th century.
- 11th century Europe is worse than a soap opera. :)

The short biography is a good introduction to William's life and reign and the background of both. As the rest of the series books, this one has a very well curated list for further reading -- although it also got dated within 5 minutes of publishing - Morris explains how the last major academic biography of William was the 1964 D. C. Douglas one, with a more updated one from Bates in 1989 (which was a popular one). And in a weird turn of events, Bates published the long awaited academic one in the same year as this one came out (replacing the old Douglas one in the Yale Monarch series). So there is now a modern academic biography as well :)

And one last thing about the book as an object. The cover is part of a bigger story - all the lines on it have a meaning and when the whole series is completed, they will make a big picture connecting all the monarchs. More details here: https://www.foyles.co.uk/blog-penguin-monarchs -- the image is at the bottom of the page - it is too big to be included here. ;) ( )
  AnnieMod | Mar 1, 2021 |
My great.....grandfather
  Shari0612 | Mar 28, 2019 |
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'While he wore the crown, England experienced greater and more seismic change than at any point before or since' On Christmas Day 1066, William the Conqueror was crowned the first Norman king of England. Marc Morris's concise, gripping biography sifts through the sources of the time to give a fresh view of the man who changed the country more than any other, as old ruling elites were swept away, enemies crushed and the map of the nation itself redrawn, culminating in the Domesday Book.

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