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The Normans (Elite) Paperback – 22 Jan 1987

4.3 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (22 Jan. 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0850457297
  • ISBN-13: 978-0850457292
  • Product Dimensions: 18.4 x 0.5 x 25.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 425,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

About the Author

David Nicolle was born in 1944, the son of the illustrator Pat Nicolle. He worked in the BBC Arabic service for a number of years, before going 'back to school', gaining an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London, and a doctorate from Edinburgh University. He later taught world and Islamic art and architectural history at Yarmuk University, Jordan. He has written many books and articles on medieval and Islamic warfare, and has been a prolific author of Osprey titles for many years. David lives and works in Leicestershire, UK.

Angus McBride is one of the world's most respected historical illustrators, and has contributed to more than 70 Osprey titles in the past three decades. Born in 1931 of Highland parents but orphaned as a child, he was educated at Canterbury Cathedral Choir School. He worked in advertising agencies from 1947, and after national service, emigrated to South Africa. He now lives and works in Cape Town.


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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The Normans are a much underrated race, especially in the Anglo-centrist world. For a brief flowering of 200 years, Normans rules kingdoms from Normandy,the Levant, Sicily to England. The economic and military powerhouse of Europe.

David Nicolle is to be congratulated for squeezing all of this into just 40 pages. If all you want is a taster to a vast subject, this is a five star offering..
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This title was first published in 1987 and while it remains mostly good as an overview and a general introduction to the Normans, it shows its age and contains a number of inaccuracies and questionable statements. However, most of the main points are nevertheless made and the largely superb plates from Angus McBride help mitigate at least some of these limitations.

First, David Nicolle’s text is at times outdated. This is particularly the case at the beginning of the book, in the first section dealing with “the Norman Legacy” where the simplistic opposition between “tamed Vikings” or “provincial Frenchmen” is almost a caricature. They also reflect debates that are over thirty years old and these are somewhat obsolete given the numerous publications that have taken place on Norman identity.

A similar point can be made about the importance of the Normans in British and European history, with the author stating that it “is denigrated or at least accepted only grudgingly, be the English-speaking world.” This was true up to the early eighties and reflected “pro-Saxon” views going back to Victorian times, but historians’ perspectives have largely changed since then, including those of British historians (see the works of Marjorie Chibnall or David Bates, just to mention these two, among many others).
Then there are some inaccuracies, omissions and questionable statements. I was very surprised to learn that, according to the author, the first Normans “arrived probably as armoured infantry” in Ireland. On the contrary, they arrived with their horses and it is this heavy cavalry that allowed them to gain the upper hand despite their small numbers.
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not read yet but I enjoy everything Viking norman saxon happy with order
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this was a gift to my brother in law
did not read it myself
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars 7 reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fact check yourself before you wreck yourself 22 April 2007
By The Laughing Heretic (strikes again) - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I'm a history major. These Osprey books seem to be of universally high quality, especially considering that they are intended for consumption by laymen. I own quite a few of them, I'm keeping them for my kids, but I find them fun. I would rate them higher if they listed the sources they reference (so I can backtrack their research) but this is rare in general market books. The plates are generally pretty accurate, there have been some minor inaccuracies (some of which I've found pointed out in the text). I would mainly offer them to smart kids around middle school as they can be a fun way to learn about ancient warfare, I think the pictures are mainly to keep the attention of a mainstream audience that includes kids and young adults. For that purpose they excell as they have much more meaty info than the other "illustrated history" books.

Regarding a previous review by that russian guy who accuses historical inaccuracy. I can't comment on the fashion choices as medieval fashion is definitely not my area, but European martial arts/history is my specialty. That "slashing spear" is called a glaive and it *is* historically accurate. Unlike the naginata used by the japanese which has a tang that extends into the haft, the glaive is affixed via a socket like an axe head. There were a wide variety of bizzare polearms in use at the time, including similar arms like the voluge, berdiche, glaive-guisarme, and halberd. Check your facts, dude.
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars McBride does it again 19 Feb. 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent book for anyone interested in the state of Normandy. Like most Osprey titles it is good introduction to the subject it represents. I was dissapointed however by Dr. Nicolle's lack of emotion in his writing. Unlike other titles in the Osprey series, this book has the drama of history made relatively dry. Despite this, the information presented is very informative, and would be an excellent secondary source for a paper. Perhaps the best aspect of this book is Mr. McBride's artwork. Unlike his peers, his illustrations seem very realistic. Nothing ruins a good book like drawings of soldiers milling around aimlessly with strange facial expressions. McBride puts depth and emotion in his illustrations, not just "soldiers on parade". I also like the fact that he puts a backround in his pictures, instead of stark white. If I could find large prints of his work I would certainly frame them and adorn my walls with them.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Normans 17 April 2007
By K. Murphy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book has served as an introduction to Norman history for me. The text is very informative and covers the Norman armies and arsenal from the Crusading Kingdoms to Ireland, and from Sicily to Saxon England. Do not listen to what the previous review said about the plates, they are excellent, depicting the Normans at the sites of their various campaigns. There are plates depicting Norman castles and ships, a Norman warrior courting a noble-lady, and the climatic Battle of Hastings.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superb plates, uneven and sometimes outdated text 16 Feb. 2014
By JPS - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This title was first published in 1987 and while it remains mostly good as an overview and a general introduction to the Normans, it shows its age and contains a number of inaccuracies and questionable statements. However, most of the main points are nevertheless made and the largely superb plates from Angus McBride help mitigate at least some of these limitations.

First, David Nicolle’s text is at times outdated. This is particularly the case at the beginning of the book, in the first section dealing with “the Norman Legacy” where the simplistic opposition between “tamed Vikings” or “provincial Frenchmen” is almost a caricature. They also reflect debates that are over thirty years old and these are somewhat obsolete given the numerous publications that have taken place on Norman identity.

A similar point can be made about the importance of the Normans in British and European history, with the author stating that it “is denigrated or at least accepted only grudgingly, be the English-speaking world.” This was true up to the early eighties and reflected “pro-Saxon” views going back to Victorian times, but historians’ perspectives have largely changed since then, including those of British historians (see the works of Marjorie Chibnall or David Bates, just to mention these two, among many others).
Then there are some inaccuracies, omissions and questionable statements. I was very surprised to learn that, according to the author, the first Normans “arrived probably as armoured infantry” in Ireland. On the contrary, they arrived with their horses and it is this heavy cavalry that allowed them to gain the upper hand despite their small numbers.

Also, the statement that the majority of the population of the Byzantine province of Langobardia (roughly modern Apulia in Southern Italy) was “Italian” with the exception of Greek-speaking inhabitants around Otranto is simply anachronistic. There was no such thing as an “Italian” during the 11th century. Instead, they seem to have been mostly Lombards, with a number of other minorities settled in the major ports during Byzantine rule (such as an Armenian community in Bari, for instance).

There are about a dozen other strange and questionable statements across the book. One of these states that “the principality of Antioch was never able to fully establish itself in the mosaic of Middle Eastern states”. The exact meaning of this statement is unclear. A similar statement could also be made for any of the other Crusader States to the extent that their existence was threatened and depended upon the links and reinforcements coming from the West. In the case of Antioch, it also depended upon keeping good relations with the large Armenian populations within the principality and to the North of it, and, up to 1180, on avoiding antagonising the Byzantine Empire.

In a second, even stranger, statement, David Nicolle comments that the Norman military elite were not “able to integrate themselves into Syrian society.” This, however, largely misses the point. First, one could wonder whether there was such a thing as a “Syrian society”, with this expression implying some sort of unity or common culture that is at odds with the previously mentioned “mosaic of Middle Eastern States”, some of which were Latin, while others were Arminian, Byzantine, Sunnite or Shiites (the Assassins). Second, the “Franks” were always a minority in all of the Crusader States, an d they remained so, even in the Kingdom of Jerusalem, throughout the existence of Outremer. Third, there is hardly any mention of “Normans”, whether knights or not, after the middle of the 12th century in the sources, simply because they did “integrate” and became largely indistinguishable from other Franks. Fourth, the fact that five more Princes of Antioch were names Bohemond after the death of Count Bohemond’s son in 1130 (Bohemond II) shows a sense of dynastic continuity but this does not allow the author to conclude that “feelings of Normanitas nevertheless remained strong in Antioch.”

Having mentioned these flaws and illustrated them through a few examples, it is also fair to mention that David Nicolle does make most of the main points.

One of these is the Normans’ adaptability, although, contrary to the author, I am not at all sure that it is this that “set them apart from the Vikings” since these exhibited something similar whether in Russia, in the Hebrides or in Ireland. Another point, related to the previous one, but that the author could have emphasised more is that virtually all of the so-called “Norman armies” were in fact heterogeneous forces, with Normans from Normandy only making up a portion of the total force. Even at the battle of Hastings, the “Normans” could have made up no more than half the army, alongside numerous Flemish and Bretons, but also warriors (both cavalry and infantry) from Maine, Anjou and even as far away as Burgundy. This was even more the case for the Normans in South Italy and Sicily where Lombards, Greeks and other Frankish knights (plus Muslims in Sicily) made up most of their forces.

Then there are the rather gorgeous plates. One, is particular (plate I describing the Normans in the East), is perhaps my personal favourites. It shows two Normans, one as an ex-byzantine mercenary and the other as an Italo-Norman Crusader, with the third character being Oshin the Hethoumian, one of several Armenian officers serving in the Byzantine Army who continued to hold against the Turks the provinces and fortresses where they had been stationed well after most of Asia Minor had been lost to the Byzantines. One of the most interesting is the armours of the two milites as they tend to complement their mail shirts with borrowed bits and pieces, whether the (byzantine) scale leather armour or lamellar armour. Both are worn on top of the mail shirt, probably to offer better protection against arrows from horse archers. The illustration of the two knights is derived from the carvings of a Church in Southern Italy.

However, and contrary to David Nicolle’s assertion, it is somewhat unlikely that the lamellar armour comes from Sicily. It certainly does reflect Moslem influence, but this is much more likely to the Turkish since lamellar armour reflected Turkish-Iranian influences. The point here is that rather reflecting the kind of equipment with which these knights might have left Southern Italy for the East, the carvings, done to commemorate their deeds, are much more likely to reflect the kind of armour they might have been wearing on their return.

Three and a half stars, rounded down to three stars.
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the better entries in this series 14 Feb. 2009
By Michael K. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the ninth in Osprey's "Elite" series, which gives fuller treatment to fighting units and other aspects of military history than the long-established "Men-at-Arms" series -- sixty-four pages instead of forty. I know something about Norman history, so I was curious to see what a volume this size could impart, and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Nicolle is an authority in medieval subjects, and he does a good job summarizing the essential Norman character, exploring their attitudes toward religion, and describing the function of feudalism. The section on the Norman ability to adapt to new conditions and cultures is especially well-written and concise. Most of the volume, of course, deals with the Normans' preferences in weapons, armor, and tactics, from the simple conical nasal-fitted helmet of the early days in northwestern France to the far more elaborate Byzantine-influenced garments and weapons of the Norman kingdoms in Sicily and Antioch. This also includes Norman innovations in fortifications and conversion, when the necessity arose, to Mediterranean sailors. A better than average work.
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