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1066: the Year of the Conquest
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on 15 October 2006
You haven't read much about 1066 before and you want a book that guides you through events, give you a sense of what it was like to be there, in short is READABLE rather than a history text heavy on learning and references butt heavy-going. This is the book for you.

I read this superb book over the years ago and it captured my imagination from the first chapter, which is a description of life in Anglo-Saxon England as 1066 dawned. He does this by describing one small village in detail, explaining the different roles and cycle of the year, emphasising how little the politics of the nation impinged on everyday life. You feel that his sympathy I always with how this affected ordinary individuals and he is a superb story-teller, wearing his learning lightly to keep the pace moving along.

Inspired by Howarth, I have tried to read several more academic texts but none came close to capturing the tension or tell the story as grippingly. I am sure historians would challenge Howarth's account (for one thing it is nearly 30 years old so more recent research will be missing) but to an ordinary punter like me that doesn't really matter: I want something broadly accurate to fire my imagination, not a worthy tome that I give up on at the end of the first chapter.

Great value, thoroughly recommended - and if you're interested Howarth's books on Waterloo and Trafalgar are just as good.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 6 October 2008
This book should be an inspiration to many people who would preconceive history as being boring and irrelevant. As someone who suffered the teaching of the subject by rote as a string of difficult dates I found this book to be quite wonderful. Howarth writes clearly and with a simple but subtle logic, and his choice here, of the best-known date in England, makes the book very approachable indeed. Even for just this one year in the dim and distant, he provides a wealth of detail from sometimes conflicting sources, giving an insight into the historical process as well as into the discernible facts. He sets a credible background of pre-conquest England and the way it changed, allowing an understanding of both the decisions being made and the influence of uncontrollable factors. A perfect book for the interested amongst us, and perhaps also a way of opening the eyes of intelligent young people.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on 27 March 1999
Howarth creates memorable portraits of the players in this drama. His ability to tell a story and bring out the human side of history makes this book a delight. I strongly recommend this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 27 January 2012
This is a surprisingly short but easily readable account of the year 1066 which covers all of the major points in detail. It is written in a narrative, often poetic style describing the events of the year month by month. Each chapter starts with a small pen and ink illustration which helps evoke the feel of this lost world.

David Howarth makes a big point of highlighting the fact that it was the kings council ( the witan ) that decided who was king after Edward the Confessor died and that the wishes of the former king or any other deals made were secondary to their decision. He does however go on to explain why William of Normandy pressed his claim to the throne and highlights just how lucky he was that year as his invasion could so easily have ended in disaster.

David Howarth is not afraid to describe different viewpoints but then state his own opinion in his writing. There were a couple of things I did disagree with, chiefly that Anglo Saxon England was not quite as idyllic as he made out ( numerous famines and viking raids tend to spoil Shangri La ) and secondly that the Saxons did use bows ( his own text shows this in describing Harald Hardrada being shot in the throat), perhaps just not as many as the Normans.

Its worth noting that this book does only cover 1066 itself and although the last chapter makes reference to the impact of the Norman conquest no futher information is provided about the ongoing campaign after that year. 1066 Is such a pivotal year in British history though that this book is very good in reminding us of how different things might have been and how much life changed as a result of those twelve months. If you want a readable account that covers all the basic facts this is probably the best book available on the subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 23 August 1998
The late Mr. Howarth simply did not write an uninteresting book, and this one is probably his best. Howarth had a way of mixing his clever insight with detailed historical accuracy and managed to make it all read like an exciting novel. Of the dozens of recounts of the Battle of Hastings and the events leading to it, this is the most accurate and most enjoyable read.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 16 February 2012
Having read many books concerning the events of 1066 and the three major battles at Fulford, Stamford Bridge and, finally, Hastings, this slim little volume first published in 1978 STILL stands head and shoulders above all the others.

Not only is it a superbly easy read, but it's also factual, wise (his theory about just why King Harold threw logic and generalship out of the window and, in an apparent rush of blood, needlessly rushed his army south to disaster at Hastings - when all he need do was bottle the Normans up on the south coast and starve them out as winter approached - strikes me as a perfectly logical explanation of an otherwise mystifying course of action; an explanation that for some reason not many other historians have picked up on), and above all brings this lost world of England and it's Kings, warlords and people one thousand years ago to life.

I can't praise this short little book highly enough. If you only buy one book on the events of that fateful year, THIS is the book you buy.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2001
1066 unveils the psychological motives of Harold, William, Tostig and all those who would help or not help them. He has a gift for making each person believable, and for engaging our sympathy for all players in the drama. Howarth's conclusions are credible. He brings to life the complexities of being born to, or aspiring to, the throne, and the tentative quality of life for those born into royalty in that time. His reconstruction of the details of the year 1066, its events and its battles that would change the course of Britain and the world irreversibly, is engaging, sometimes sad, and extremely worthwhile.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 19 October 2004
In "1066: The Year Of The Conquest" David Howarth introduces the reader to the world which existed during that pivotal year in the history of England. Howarth does an excellent job in laying the background and explaining how the change of dynasties was effected. The background is seen in terms of an English village, the governmental structure of England and the basis for each claim to the throne. Character studies of both Kings Harold and William enable us to feel as if we know each of them. The explanation of the structure, strengths and weaknesses of each army prepare the reader to follow the excellent narrations of the battles at which the issues were decided. The consequences of this momentous year to all involved, Harold, who was killed, William, who gained the crown of a land he learned to detest, the English nobility, the Normans who supplanted them and the common people of England, whose lives were disrupted forever, blend multiple threads of the book to a unified conclusion.
I often have difficulty in following a book about a portion of history about which I know little. Although I knew little of the environment or events of "1016", I had no such difficulties in this case. Howarth presents "1066" as a such a self contained unit as to make it totally understandable on it's own. This is the mark of a masterful story teller.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 25 July 2002
This is a very readable and entertaining history of the events leading up to and including the Norman conquest. The author tries to bring the events to life by describing what life was like for the average villager before the conquest and how he was affected by it. The lead characters in the drama are well drawn such that their actions can be related to their personalities and motives. It is a populist history book and does not apologise for the fact. Initially I found the simplicity of style slightly grating, as though it was being written for school children. However, by the end of the book I had become absorbed in the story (which I suppose is the point), and found it a very satisfying read. That is not to say that David Howarth is not a serious historian. Throughout he discusses his source materials, and all the possible interpretations of them before presenting his own view. One criticism I would have is that the events in the decades before the conquest are not given sufficient depth, so that although the immediate reasons for the conflict are well explained the underlying reasons are more difficult to grasp. Overall though it is a great story, well told, and a good introduction to this period of British history.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 8 November 2009
This is another in David Howarth's series of books on the key battles in British History.

David Howarth specialises in writing history in a story-telling way using contemporary sources and the accounts of ordinary people to allow the reader to live the events in question.

1066 was a more difficult task than the other battles he has tackled, Waterloo, Trafalgar and D-Day, because of the lack of historical sources and of course none by ordinary people caught up in the events. Nevertheless David Howarth has produced a gripping work that offers fresh insight into the motivations of the key players.

He is especially good on emphasising the effect of the papal blessing of the Norman invasion on the morale of Harold and the English, and on the realities of naval transport in that era.
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