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Over the years I have read just about everything I can on the year 1066. 1066: The Year of The Three Battles by Frank McLynn has to be the best.

This book is a exciting read in it's own right. We get the full background to the three main people involved. Plus loads on all three battles.

A super history book.
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on 11 February 2000
The depth of research and knowledge that went into this book is amazing, and it is surprisingly readable for a serious historical tract. Having said that, for those of us that do not know much more about the period than what we learnt fleetingly at school (William vs Harold, arrow in eye, Saxons consigned to historical oblivion) there could be more concessions to "easy reading". Especially helpful would have been to have maps showing all the place names that are mentioned as pivotal, rather than just some of them, and family trees for each of the three main families in the book: there was a disconcerting habit in those days to call children by your own name and to have various aliases - short of carrying an A4 notebook and doing it yourself, confusion will sometimes reign. Apart from that, a fascinating and illuminating read, and it is always a pleasure to learn that the Normans did not just swan in and take over: at last British History stands up for itself!
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VINE VOICEon 23 May 2006
One of the best books on 1066 I have ever read, and I have read quite a few.

Probably best for someone who has some knowledge of the events of that year, but not too academic or dry for someone new to start their fascination with 1066.

Rattles the yarn along superbly, and manages to balance the different strands of Harold, The Confessor, Stamford and Fulford,Hardrada,Tostig, William , Senlac Hill, etc in a masterful way.
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on 26 December 2010
Have, like 1-2 other reviewers, a few reservations. The title is slightly misleading, as the author's "brush" is much wider in scope, and at its best in the biogs of the various protagonists. On the three battles, however, only Hastings gets any really detailed treatment, Fulford in particular getting just beyond a mention! One of the most interesting aspects of reading various takes on the period is the range of interpretations possible and more recent books are perhaps a little more nuanced in their view of some of the sources; McLynn seems to rest much of his evidence on one source (ie the Carmen), which, despite his arguments in support of its veracity, has been challenged as a reliable source by others. That being said, his argument that Harold was foolish in rushing to contain William has some weight behind it. Very readable in style.
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on 24 September 2010
I first saw this publication in the gift shop of the Bayeux Tapestry, priced at twice the price I paid for it on Amazon. So that was a plus to begin with.

Frank McLynn sets the political and familial background to the events of 1066 extremely well, providing a full and interwoven background. Although it was slightly irking that descriptions of events jumped around chronologically at times, leading to some re- reading.

Frank ( and his family ) are a clearly well read bunch, immersed in the ancient languages that chronicled this era. The text was extremely well researched and referenced. It contained insights and developed arguments that I doubt any other popular text on this subject would.

The biographical content was excellent and built pictures of characters who were previously shady bit- part players and whose influence and importance is generally underestimated.

Unfortunately, Frank is a bit too keen on his ostentatious vocabularly, although this did help amazon with follow up sales as I was forced to purchase my first ever dictionary! The anachronistic vocab and chronological hopscotch did leave me with the impression, at times, that I was reading an undergraduate's pretentiously intellectualised stream of consciousness.

However, do not be daunted! It is actually thoroughly enjoyable for all that. If you want to know why, as well as how 1066 happened ( and you're not a scholar of medieval Latin or English ) then this book is a must. I was sorry that the book ended and am already looking forward to reading it again.
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on 6 January 2000
This book is both serious historiography (including extensive notes - very important!) and fun to read.It gives attention evenly to all the three main (and other) figures involved and doesn't take the outcome of '1066' for granted. At the end of the book I was amazed that Anglo-Saxon England has ever become Anglo-Norman at all (and not because I didn't know...). What speaks well for the author: he gives the reader the opportunity to disagree (which I sometimes did). This books proves that writing about history doesn't have to be oversimplified to be fascinating.
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on 13 July 2006
OK. Frank McLynn is a great writer, but this book is frustrating in the sense that it could have been near-perfect, but is let down by overlong descriptions of viking foreign policy and internal Anglo-Saxon wranglings that do not always seem entirely germane to the narrative thrust. Sam Dewsbury is right in the above review in asking for more maps and perhaps a family tree or five. Here's another gripe. Look in the index for 'Senlac', the hill on which the Battle of Hastings was fought. No mention. In fact, it is not clear where McLynn explains properly to the reader about the names for the hill. He refers to it as 'Battle' hill, though mentions Senlac elsewhere. An editor or two should have been allowed to do a Viking beserker job on a lot of this text. A lot of chopping and changing would have helped.

Also, what's all this myth-busting stuff at the end with a revelation that Harold very probably didn't cork it from an arrow in the eye? McLynn seems to present this as groundbreaking research. Come off it! I remember doing the Battle of Hastings at school and the teacher told us exactly the same thing. And I'm 32! I'm no expert on this period of history, but McLynn is suggesting that many serious scholars can still be found who support the 'arrow in the eye' theory. Well, maybe so, but when did they publish their books? 1959?

I could have sworn in the 1980s that the consensus that the 'arrow in the eye' man on the Bayeux Tapestry was Harold was shattered in myriad TV programmes and newspaper articles. Pardon my ignorance if I am erroneously projecting onto the past, but I have very strong (if blurred and non-specific) memories about this. Also bizzare is his contention that it is somehow devastatingly original to view the Bayeux Tapestry in general as an allegorical work, biased towards the Normans. Again, who the hell didn't know that?

Hmm. Could have done better. Still a great read for most of it though, which is the frustrating thing....
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on 17 August 2000
I reccommend this work highly as the latest word on this climactic year. It goes bravely after a broad canvas when three of Europre's greatest warriors clashed for the kingship of one of the wealthiest domains in the continent. There was no inevitability about Norman success, and it has to be said that (even though my own ancestors were Norman) my sympathy is always with Harold of England. The 'best man' did not win, perhaps it was the luckiest. One 'nit' is that McLynn does not treat the Bayeux Tapestry as a source, though it must be taken as such, and perhaps it is the best source of all. Hence, I feel that Harold WAS wounded by an arrow in the eye. As Michael Grant has said, one should not lightly reject one of the strongest traditions in English history. One historian had examined the stitching around the warrior said to be the true Harold (a man being slain by a mounted warrior) and found stitchmarks in front of the man's face as if the Tapestry did once show an arrow protruding from the man's eye. Hence both warriors are Harold - the first showing a disabing wound, the second the death blow. McLynn also recounts the tragic story of the sons of Godwin - all slain in the four battles - Tostig killed at Stamford Bridge by his brothers, and Harold, Gyrth and Leofwine killed at Hastings. The brothers stand head and shoulders above all the other characters in the book - 'what a fall was there, my countrymen!'. Indeed, if Gyrth's advice had been followed, Harold would have not have been at Hastings and (maybe) would have founded a dynasty. What would the history of Ireland, Scotland and Wales have been without the Normans? What sort of English language and literature would have evolved? One of history's great might-have-beens. I know that re-turning these islands from the orbit of Scandanavia southward to France and the Mediterranean was perhaps the most decisive event in their long history.
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on 8 August 2010
Frank Mclynn's book is undoubtably well researched and painstakingly produced. However i found it very heavy going for the most part.

It is mostly biographical of the principal men of 1066, and not as its title suggests,about the 3 battles. Fulford and Stamford Bridge recieve very scant mention, with only summary accounts.

The book though, redeemed itself,i think by a good final chapter, with a good account of Hastings. There is a good epilogue, and appendix, which gives the effort credability.

If you want to know about the men of 1066, this is for you. But if you want battle action, look elsewhere.

Perhaps a little expensive,and heavy going at the start.1066: The Year of The Three Battles
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on 20 June 2000
This is a good read. It mixes scholarship with lively story telling. The opening chapters are full of facts though with little colour. This a bit like an anatomy class but with only a skeleton to work with. For example the section covering Harald Sigurrdsson in Byzantium is full of exotic sounding names but without context its fairly meaningless, if informative. Having said that the emphasis of the story is correctly placed around the interrelationship of England, Scandanavia and Normandy. I thought the focus on individual rulers made sense of a sort but the dynamics of regional interrelations was lost in the scope of the story. This was particularly clear in the discussion of King Edwards foreign policy. If it was confusing or a muddle or if it didn't matter say so, but I thought it was left hanging clumsily. The delination of William the Conquerors rulership was crisp and clear but comparing Duke William to Hitler is as absurd as saying William was like the Serbian leader Milosevic today. Though I liked the thrust to perspective it gave. The story telling becomes a little tiresome towards the end as more and more time is taken up with scholarly speculation. I thought the depiction of the battle of Hastings was good. The scale of the effort is captured in the logistical rundown of William's army. This is not primarily a military history though excellent where it reads as such but rather a medieval history with a strong emphasis on the Vikings.
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