The Norman Conquest, Paperback Book
5 out of 5 (3 ratings)


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.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: British & Irish history
  • ISBN: 9780099537441

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Showing 1 - 3 of 3 reviews.

Review by

This is an excellent account of this most pivotal event in English history, told in a very readable and engaging way, while never sacrificing a proper critical use of the primary sources, drawing on the works of the contemporary or near-contemporary chroniclers from England and Normandy, the Anglo Saxon Chronicle and (of course) the Bayeux Tapestry. In fact it is really a political and military history of the whole eleventh century from the Viking raids on Ethelred's England until the death of the Conqueror in France in 1087. It certainly was a turbulent and extremely colourful period, of which the Norman Conquest and, more specifically, the Battle of Hastings, is undoubtedly the best known event, but which must be understood in the context of its time, with Normandy as a fairly recently emerged duchy, and England having its large Danish influence. The artefacts that are so well known, i.e. the Tapestry and the Domesday Book, are unique survivals of their kind, without which our knowledge of the period would be much poorer. In his introduction, the author laments the paucity of sources for the 11th century compared to those present just two centuries later which he used in his previous book on Edward I, A Great and Terrible King; for example thanks to surviving documents, we know where Edward I was for almost every day of his reign, but very rarely exactly where William was. Paradoxically, I think the fact that so much has to be squeezed out of so few sources makes this book a much smoother read than his book on Edward I; that, and to some extent, my greater familiarity with the detailed course of events. Thoroughly recommended.

Review by

At one point in 'The Norman Conquest', writing about the Bayeux Tapestry, Marc Morris says; "No other source takes us so immediately and so vividly back to that lost time."<br/> <br/>I'll say exactly the same about this book.<br/><br/>It really is an astoundingly well written and well put together book. Easily the Norman period's equivalent of Max Hastings' 'All Hell Let Loose' and Anthony Beevor's 'The Second World War.' For what it's worth, for me, that's the highest praise I can come up with. As with those two, this really deserves at least 6 stars.<br/><br/>You know what happened don't you? Normans come over, beat Harold at Hastings, conquered us, spoke French, tormented Robin Hood, etc, etc. But wait. Do you really know what happened, or why, or where?<br/><br/>'The Norman Conquest' is packed full of stuff you didn't know. Or thought you knew, but as you will soon find out, had wrong. For one (and I'm not giving anything away as if you read the first few pages in a bookshop while deciding about getting it, you'll come across this); The Bayeux Tapestry. Not a tapestry. Not made in Bayeux. And once that has finished rocking your Norman world, you're ready to read on.<br/><br/>Marc Morris has an open, inviting and encouragingly readable style. He's very honest and critical when discussing the few sources we have for events of this period in an excellent 'down-to-earth', matter of fact style. He's very good at cutting through the reams of ancient hype and he's perfect at reading between the medieval lines of 1,000-year old press releases and spin doctors' erm…spin. History written by the victors and by the losers (sometimes for the victors), has been simmered down and when the mists have cleared, we have Marc Morris' The Norman Conquest.'<br/><br/>This is surely how to write a modern non-fiction history book and I thought the back-cover quote from someone reviewing it in 'The Times' had it about right: "Compelling…Morris sorts embroidery from evidence and provides a much needed, modern account of the Normans in England that respects past events more than present ideologies."<br/><br/>If you have even a passing interesting in reading Justin Hill's 'Shieldwall', James Wilde's 'Hereward' series, Angus Donald's 'Outlaw' series, or James Aitcheson's 'Conquest' series, or even if you have read one, more, or all of the above - think of this as a companion piece. Read 'The Norman Conquest' and you'll get even more enjoyment out of them. Even in retrospect.

Review by

Marc Morris' The Norman Conquest is a splendid read that corrects many misconceptions about 1066. Among the most important are that England was being invaded by numerous outside forces, the Normans being but the most successful among them, that Harold Godwinson was only a summer king who ruled for less than a year. His family controlled the government of Edward the Confessor during his final years but lacked the legitimacy and the resources to prevent either a Norman or Danish push. Harold famously managed to contain the opportunistic Norwegian invasion but then rushed South too fast to defeat William at the coast. He should have collected the strength of his army first. His lack of legitimacy, however, made the waiting game a risky proposition. The Normans won not due to their military superiority but, similar to the Romans, thanks to their better logistics, use of mercenaries and fortifications. The English could not sustain their resistance, especially as they were hardly ever united internally. Most of the time, they relied on external partners in Wales, Scotland, Denmark etc. who in case of success would have attempted to replace the Normans and hardly had given the English their liberties back. An important fact is also that it was not over in 1066 but the conquest and pacification continued until the 1070s with the complete purge and replacement of the English aristocrats by Norman ones (as documented in the two Domesday books). Curiously, it took the loss of first Normandy and later France to truly make the Normans English.Given the martial title, I would have expected a bit more military account, especially the battle of Hastings is covered not as detailed as in other accounts. Morris' interest is in family politics and in the great cast of characters about whose stories he has written a wonderful book.

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