Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Norman Conquest - 1066. General Considerations.

Generally speaking the history of the British Isles is up to a certain moment the story of repeated waves of migrations and invasions, the story of successive waves of invaders and immigrants from the mainland Europe which gloriously closed with the Norman Conquest in 1066. The most significant aspect for the understanding of Britain’s evolution throughout time is the fact that it is an island. The south-eastern part of the archipelago situated in North Atlantic was the most suitable way of access and at the same time the guarantee of security and a favourable land for civilization. Here lay the inviting routes for invasions which, many times over, seem to have run much the same predestined course. Those who came to Britain would conquer or drive before them the previous occupants of the land, imposing each time something new on them. The Normans were to be the last of the conquerors and at the same time the most influential.
However much dispute there may be concerning the detail of the Norman impact on England, there can be no doubt whatever concerning the general importance of the coming of the Normans. Long centuries of different changes and influences made nothing more than to prepare the country for the most spectacular revolution in its history. Until 1066 England has undergone civil war, invasion and change of dynasty, but never before a change like that wrought by the Normans. Yet it is utterly misleading to ascribe to the Normans all the credit for the fine flowering of the civilization in the post-Conquest centuries or to neglect the contribution of the natives to the whole process and the fact that they were deeply rooted in the Western world. As a consequence many of the most striking achievements after 1066 were e rather cosmopolitan in character.
Till the 11th century all invaders seem to have followed much the same objective. They were seeking to get away from the forests; they wanted room, land, dry gazing and good water. The late 11th century would give to the act of conquering and invading a new dimension: the extortion of the resources of the country for the benefit of a hand of new foreign rulers.
The natural resources and the mild climate attracted many different people who came here as immigrants or as conquerors. We might say that British history until the Norman Conquest in 1066, was determined by two important migrations – the Celts (800 BC) and the Anglo-Saxons (410 AD) - and by one major conquest – the Romans (55 B.C.). The interposition of these historical phenomena of invasion and of conquest gives to the British history a chess board like aspect.

The insularity offered to the different pretenders an opportunity and at the same time it raised many problems concerning the efficient rule of these islands. Only twice has it ever been conquered, once in 55 BC, by the Romans and again in 1066 by the Normans. A fact which we should mention here is that the conquerors always had to have a dialogue with the pre-existing inhabitants, producing sooner or later a mixed society with elements from both.

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