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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sort of popular history
I find it difficult to imagine there could be a better serious popular history of the Norman Conquest. It is fluently written, long enough to provide a good level of detail, and prepared to discuss many of the controversies and uncertainties of the period without over-burdening the reader. I particularly liked the way the author manages to incorporate discussion of the...
Published 24 months ago by Slow Lorris

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9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Norman Conquest
"The Norman Conquest" by Marc Morris is a comprehensive history of the Norman invasion, covering the whole life time of William the Conqueror. Its style would be easy to read if it was not for the fact that Marc Morris insists on justifying every point he makes by discussing all the evidence that led to that conclusion. This can mean the narrative drags as he deals with...
Published 17 months ago by Neil Lennon


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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best sort of popular history, 25 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Hardcover)
I find it difficult to imagine there could be a better serious popular history of the Norman Conquest. It is fluently written, long enough to provide a good level of detail, and prepared to discuss many of the controversies and uncertainties of the period without over-burdening the reader. I particularly liked the way the author manages to incorporate discussion of the sources - their strengths and weaknesses are crucial to the story - without allowing this to obstruct a strong narrative flow.
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60 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Battle Royale..., 14 April 2012
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This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Hardcover)
Don't be fooled by the cover. Cheesy 'historical' rumpy-pumpy fiction this is most certainly not.

Seriously researched. And then researched some more. And then a bit more. Then a bit more too. Keep going... Nearly there... Final bit.

Check all possible available data. Double check the facts. Ask final advice from all other experts in the field and then ever so carefully review all material. Repeat.

At this last stage, take a deep breath. Is this serious research as near perfect as it could be? Another deep breath. Yes.

Written carefully, smartly, realistically, honestly... For, this all happened 950 years ago give or take...

Net result ... No flights of historical fancy. No guessing at the emotional / psychological 'let's invent a personality' stuff. No half-hearted suppositions beyond a reasonable, educated, analytical appraisal of the available information.

The Battle of Hastings. The serious context before it happened. The reason why and how it happened. A century, give or take, after it happened.

As the blurb on the book says... 'The Stuff of legend'.

Marc Morris. I'm very impressed.
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32 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cracking read...., 2 April 2012
This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Hardcover)
Having read Marc Morris' "A great and terrible king:Edward I and the forging of Britain", which I thoroughly enjoyed, and wanting to know more about Norman Invasion this book seemed like a good place to start. What hooked me however wasn't the Invasion itself but the way the scene is set in the first few chapters. Rather than delving straight into the succession crisis that followed Edward the confessor it starts way back with Æthelred the unready and subsequently breezes over the Danish successions of Cnut/Harthacnut etc giving the reader much better knowledge of not only why, but how Normandy became embroiled in the politics of late Saxon England.
Having visited Bayeux and the tapestry almost 20 years ago the author brilliantly brought memories flooding back and added ideas and interpretations, that as a 10 year old boy, I was unable to make for myself at the time.

Well done Mr Morris.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You will not win!, 27 April 2012
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This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Hardcover)
If ever a king reigned with his butt in the saddle and a sword in his hand, it was William the Bastard - The Conqueror.

From the moment he came of age practically 'til the day he died, he moved from one massive fight scene to another to protect and acquire what was his. Using calculated brutality he subdued dissension in his duchy; growing so powerful that the King of France, whose vassal he was, became concerned that he may break out and extend his borders. Making a pact with Geoffrey Martel to destroy William, they tried to over-run his duchy and were repelled. At their final encounter in 1057, at the ford at Varaville, the slaughter was so brutal and conclusive, the terrified french king left william's duchy at top speed never to return again.

Meanwhile, Edward the Confessor decided to leave William the English crown. English politics being what they were, upon Edward's death a certain Harold Godwineson usurped it. Big mistake! Marc Morris attributes Harold's death to direct action by William (not an arrow in the eye) and a few of his most trusted men. By the end of the book I came to the conclusion Morris has it right.

The book is about the Norman Conquest and how it changed England forever, but the nature of William leaps from the pages. Calculatingly violent, religious, a faithful husband, rotten father - love him or loathe him, you could never ignore him, and to cross him after he had offered terms for peace meant your destruction.

If you love reading history, and in particular well written history, you will want this book. No review can do it justice. Those readers who enjoyed a Great and Terrible King will be familiar with Marc Morris' style, but this book is better because of the subject and the implacable anti-hero whose will (and sword arm) brought it all to birth.

ps The one assertion Morris makes (and which I've given a lot of thought to because Morris makes it) is the notion that the Normans were chivalrous! Surely in the loosest sense of the word as some of Duke William's calculated acts of violence horrified his contemporaries - the breaking of Alencon for instance. And that's before he crosses the Channel and subdues the English - consider the Harrying of the North. As Morris points out, for Norman read Norseman and their penchant for mutilating those who crossed them remained at least until the reign of Henry I. If anyone was deserving of the epithet 'chivalrous' I would say that that belongs to the French.

In fact the whole notion of chivalry engenders serious debate: after all Henry VIII loved the romance and whole notion of chivalry yet became a tyrant king and a killer of queens. Does that mean that chivalry was a mere concept, a flirtation with the concept of a better self, to be shelved under the necessity of realpolitik and expediency?

I imagine this is why I enjoy reading Marc Morris's books, it is impossible to be a passive reader.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All Conquering, 2 April 2012
This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Hardcover)
This is History as it should be written - though few historians have Marc Morris's fluency or eye for detail. I read it through from cover to cover: a great deal of learning, lightly worn and a powerful story, compellingly told.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A real mythbuster about the Norman Conquest!, 24 April 2014
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Prior to purchasing this book, my knowledge on the Norman Conquest was based purely on what was rammed down my throat at school during the 1980s. My orthodox view of 1066 and beyond has never really been challenged and nor had I any interest in changing my understanding or appreciation. I remember thumbing through this book in Waterstones on a cold April afternoon in 2013 and what piqued my interest in this book was one of the plates showing the Norman castle in my home town of Pickering, North Yorkshire. Next to nothing is known about this castle even locally. I remember that during my "indoctrination" about Norman history at school, Pickering Castle was supposedly a place of internment for Charles I (rather than correctly Richard II according to Arthur Bryant)! Whatever, that one image was enough to me to add this book to my Amazon wish list, and I'm glad I did.

I particularly enjoyed the build up to the Conquest regarding the tangled web of competing Saxon claims to the English throne offset against those made by the Danes under the spectre of frequent invasion from a whole host of European factions. Morris skilfully teases out the causal chain that led to William and Harold Goodwinson both asserting their rights to the crown as promised by Edward the Confessor. The evidence presented tends to support the rather surprising conclusion – to me at least - that Harold was the usurper (again something not taught in school). The Norman invasion, as presented by Morris, also departs from the orthodoxy by rightly suggestion that the victory at Hastings did not immediately yield up the English Kingdom to William. There was far more fighting to be done against a rearguard of proud Englishmen led by the surviving remnants of the Saxon aristocracy. Between 1066 and William’s death in 1087, the Conqueror rarely enjoyed any peace in either England or the Duchy of Normandy as he sought to consolidate his power. This was particularly marked by the progression of castles stretching from the south to the north of England (including the one in Pickering). I rather enjoyed the description of how, at first, the Norman colonists displaced the English and then assimilated with them to forge a unique Anglo-Norman culture (something which our 18th and 19th century descendents failed to do when embarking on colonisation) and is clearly displayed in today’s British culture. Morris’ discussion on the Doomday process and the book that resulted from the survey was fascinating and again his narrative blew away the preconceptions I had formed from my schooling (or lack thereof). Finally the book ends with a brief survey of the Conqueror’s progeny which links to the civil war between Matilda, granddaughter of Conqueror, and Stephen of Blois which is a period that my father is interested in.

Morris’ book is well researched and the narrative is paced about right. As for historical inaccuracies, a number of other reviewers have picked up one or two but on this topic I cannot comment given that this was my first foray into this period. However the entire story of the Conquest does seems to be based on only a handful of primary sources written in Old English and Latin which increases the propensity to misinterpret key facts and clues about the past. Be that as it may, I believe that Marc Morris has done a wonderful job in bringing to life this fascinating period in British history. This book is truly an action packed history lesson that makes a true mockery of the three years or so of high school history classes. Highly recommended!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read, 2 Dec 2013
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Marc Morris writes in an engaging and articulate way that makes the book easy to dive into. Very good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why can't more history books be like tis one?, 8 Nov 2013
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This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Paperback)
This is an excellently written book. I had little interest in this period and only bought this book because it had many strong recommendations. It turn out to be a great buy.

Unlike many history books I have read of recent years this is easy to read and in plain English. Many books I have read recently are sometimes difficult to read and understand, and it appears the authors are trying to show just how clever they are. This book is different it is easy to read and understand, no need to re-read sections to appreciate what is being written. However don't mistake easy to read with simplistic, this is an excellent account of this period in European history, and you will finish reading it with a good understanding of the conquest and it's background.

On the strength of this book I bought two other books by this same author:
A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain
Castle: A History of the Buildings that Shaped Medieval Britain
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incicive and refreshing, 25 Oct 2013
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Academically solid but Marc is not afraid to voice his opinion and interpretations. I really enjoyed reading it - refreshing!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant book: insightful, authoritative, engaging!, 15 Jun 2013
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This review is from: The Norman Conquest (Paperback)
This excellently written book is very engaging and authoritative. Very thought provoking and informative, it provides a detailed and stimulating exploration of the transition from Late Anglo-Saxon to Norman England. The processes that led to this momentous change are examined in a very engaging and stimulating manner.
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The Norman Conquest
The Norman Conquest by Marc Morris (Paperback - 7 Mar 2013)
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