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William the Conqueror Paperback – 1 Jan 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 312 pages
  • Publisher: The History Press; 3rd edition edition (1 Jan. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0752429604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0752429601
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 2.5 x 19.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 138,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"No one is better qualified...to interpret King William's character"


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4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Interestingly, Amazon reviews of David Bates' biography of William the Conqueror have been contrasted, with the book, first published in 1989, being compared to the much older biography of David Douglas (first published in 1964). US reviewers have tended to prefer the more recent version whereas UK reviewers have been lukewarm in their comments and ratings for this book. I found that both are excellent in rather different ways and I would therefore recommend both to the extent that they complement each other.

I will not pretend to have read ALL of the biographies on William the Conqueror (there are a host of them) but these two are the best that I have come across to date. There are several reasons for preferring David Bates' version. It is more recent. It is targeted at the general reader, as opposed to being mainly a piece of scholarship as David Douglas' version and it is therefore shorter (275 pages versus 375 pages, not counting the annexes). On the other hand, UK reviewers complained that it is "not as meaty and detailed as the David Douglas biography". I guess you cannot have it both ways: scholarly, very detailed and comprehensive and entertaining.

There are also similarities and differences regarding the contents because the each book has a different slant. David Douglas, as the subtitle of his book makes clear, concentrated on the "Norman Impact on England". David Bates, however, is more "a book about a man" who became Duke of Normandy, Count of Maine and then King of England. The contrast should not be pushed too far: both books address what happened before, during and after the Conquest. In addition, David Bates portray of William's personality owes a lot to David Douglas, a debt that he willingly acknowledges.
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I was extremely impressed by this biography of William the Conqueror. For a man who lived nearly a thousand years ago, and with reliable sources relatively scarce, David Bates has succeeded in constructing a portrait of a king who played such an important role in the shaping of medieval England.

This is not, primarily, a military history. Indeed, Bates devotes very little time to the Norman Conquest itself, preferring to place William in a wider context, both during his time as Duke of Normandy prior to 1066, and as King and Duke afterwards. There is an interesting, although a little tentative, discussion as to the validity of the Conqueror's claim to the throne. However, the scholarship is very good across the book. Bates manages largely to avoid the pitfall that many medieval historians fall into; judging his subject by modern standards. Whilst conceding the brutality of aspects of his character, Bates neither condones nor condemns it, merely explaining that it happened.

This is a good starting point for anyone interested in the period. As I have written above, it is not at all a military history; for those wishing to read an in depth analysis of Hastings or other battles in his career, you will need to go elsewhere.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book (although I can tentatively claim descent from the allies of the Conqueror!) and would recommend it to anyone wishing to get started in learning about the period.
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Format: Paperback
For a book on the life and times of William the Conqueror it's a good beginners' guide. More time I thought was spent on the times rather than his life, which may be because not enough is known about him to fill the book. Nevertheless it's very good on his background and his life before Hastings.
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Format: Paperback
A good general introduction to the life of the Conqueror, though it's not as meaty and detailed as the David Douglas biography.
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Format: Paperback
I expected great things from this book as I had never read a full scale biography of the Conqueror. But I was taken in by the arresting extract of the opening page. I thought I was going to learn a lot more about William's mother & upbringing. But I did'nt. What followed set the whole tone of the book by the repetitive phrase "We do not really know..." In short I foumd I already knew as much about William as the author. In compensation I realised that,over many years,I had picked up in a fragmentasry way all that is known about William's story.
The author's style is acceptable and competent. This is a good book for those who do not know anything about William The Conqueror.
Indeed for them it could be an absorbing story. But for me.
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