Unit 1 Topic A2 The Norman Conquest and its impact on England

England on the Eve of the Conquest

William the Conqueror

Edwards Death

William's Invasion

William Takes Control

Changing England

From Black Death to Great Revolt, England 1348-1381

The Plague of 1348

The Revoltof 1381


England on the Eve of Conquest 7


Led from two Archbishops in Canterbury (North) and York (South.) The Church was divided into Bishoprics (Where the Bishop was important) and at the centre was the Cathedral Church, which was where the bishopric would be organised. Monasteries and Nunneries also existed, where people could dedicated themselves to God.


Under Canute, Godwin had dedicate himself to ensuring the Canute's son held the Throne, and prevented Ethelreds sons from claiming it (Later on, Ethelred's son Edward the Confessor was the last heir remaining.)

Edwards Return

His problem was Godwin, who was wealthy and had a lot of pollitical power. He tried to counter this by giving Normans positions of power in England, which angered the Godwins. He also might have promised the throne to a Norman (William) to strengthen his hand against Godwin.

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England on the Eve of Conquest 2

Effects of Viking raids

Problem of Viking raids has at the same time strengthened England as a state. Need for money to pay off Viking war parties/ fund war parties against them created an efficient tax system (Danegeld.) This allowed the English Crown to collect large funds off the English population and also encouraged coinage (which made paying tax easier) and also required effective systems for sending out royal decrees.

*Danegeld-Pay Danish not to fight them and leave instead


-Royal Decrees were sent out as 'Writs' which were signed letters from the king or with his seal on it. They were sent to shire courts to be read and enacted.

-Responsibility for the laws being follwed was with the 'Shire Reeves' or Sheriffs, who would also pass the responsibility on to 'Village Reeves.'

-Legal matters/trials discussed in Shire and Village Courts and trials were often decided by 'ordeal.'

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England on the Eve of Conquest 5

The Witan

This was a group of powerful men, normally Earls or Bishops) who could meet with the King to advise him (almost like an early parliament.) This could have prevented Civil war between Godwin and Edward on two occasiones.

Shire Courts

For Writs to be sent out, it meant that there had to be courts to receive and read them. Shire courts covering whole shires met 4 times a year on holy days, such as Easter. They were attended by people in the shires such as Bishops, Earls, landowners, Thegns and Shire Reeves (Sherrifs.) They read, discussed and enforced writes, collected Danegeld and enforced royal laws, as well as discussing regional land disputes and any other important matters that occured.

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Edwards Death

Edward the Confessors death and the Coronation of Harold

Hardrada's invasion and the Battle of Fulford Gate

Harold's march North and the Battle of Stamford Bridge

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England on the Eve of Conquest 3


-The Kingdom was split into Northumbria, Mercia, Wessex and East Anglia- Ruled by Earls. They were split into Shires, which were split into 'Hundreds' which were made up of a dozen villages. It was through the Shires and Hundreds that law was enforced and taxes were collected, which was done through Shire Courts meeting on holy days (normally around 4 times a year) and hundred courts which would meet more often than this.


-The taxes were paid using coins, which were produced at 60 mints around the country in 980.      

-These coins were reproduced every 5 years (measured in pounds shillings and pence.) 

-Ethelred raised £48,000 of Danegeld in 1012 and £82,000 was raised in 1018 (efficiency and wealth.)

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England on the Eve of Conquest 4


-The minting of coins allowed the Anglo Saxon King to extend his authority across all the regions where his coinage was recognised. This meant that where his coin was minted, he had an authority. Every 7-10 years all the coins were reminted, which allowed more control over its distribution.


One successful example of the issuing of royal orders is the 'Writ.' These were letters which were sent out to shire courts which were signed and sealed by the King or his secretary (the chancellor.) It issued a law or order managing the distribution of land, recruiting soldiers and other royal business.

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England on the Eve of Conquest 6


The decision of the Shire Court went to the Shire Reeve to enact (essentially a manager.) He might have been a landowner or Thegn, but this responsibility meant that he had power and respect. He was less powerful than the Earl and Bishops, but was still important in shire life.

Hundred Courts

The 'Hundred' was a measure of land and an administratative area of a few villages and would also form the Hundred court, which would deal with law and local disputes, collect tax and would meet more often and have less important people attending it, as it would be made of up local Thegns and village Reeves. 

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William's Invasion

William's preparations, landing and settinng up of a secure base

Harold's march south and the depletion of his forces

The Battle of Hastings

William's march on London, coronation and the submission of the English Nobility

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Changing England

The Normanisation of the Church, replacing of English Bishops

Church building

Church councils, the primacy of Canterbury

Lanfranc and Church Reform

Economic and social change

Change of the political and landed elite

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The Plague of 1348

Impact on towns and cities, inadequate sanitation

Lack of medical knowledge

Impact on isolated villages

The decline in population at regular intervals and the disproportionate effect of the very young and old

The decline in trade, the collapse of land prices and food prices and rents

Measure to control wages and prices. Ordinance and statute of Labourers, their failure

Difficulties in enforcing tradicional labour services

The Sumptuary laws

Growing economic power of the peasantry

Attempts to enforce the poll taxes of 1377, 79 and 80

John Ball, John Wycliffe and changing religious ideas

The Hundred Years War and the anger of failures and cost

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William takes control

Early attempts at conciliation, Stigand, Edwin and Morcar

Edric the Wild

The Exeter Revolt 1068

The Northern Revolt of 1069/70

The Revolt of the Earls 1075

The significance of castle building

The distribution of land and knight service and the New Military Elite

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From Black Death to Great Revolt, England 1348-81

English economy, internal trade and trade with Europe

The growth of towns and urbanisation, London

English society, Serfs and Freemen, Lords and the Manorial system

The effects of climate change and soil exhastion, disease, famine and overpopulation

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William the Conqueror

William's personality and the nature of his rule in Normandy

William's line to England through Edward and Emma

William's claim to the English throne and Papal support and Harold's promise

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The Revolt of 1381

The Strength of the revolt in East Anglia and Kent. Attacks on sites, violence and those involved

The roles of Wat Tyler and Richard the II

The Suppression and aftermath of the revolt

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William's claim to the throne 1

After Godwin's Death

-Harold and the other Godwins became even more powerful~ Harold got Ralf of Mantes lands on his death, Tostig Godwinson got Northumbria and Gyrth Godwinson got East Anglia.

-Harold led successful campaigns againsth the Welsh with his brother Tostig and was named subregulus (deputy king) by a chronicler.

William's Claim

-Edward's mother Queen Emma was the sister of Williams paternal grandfather

-Edward promised the throne to William in 1051

-Harold swore loyalty to Edward during a trip to Normandy

-The Pope supported William's claim

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England on the Eve of Conquest 1

English Society- Trade, Religion, Industry and Culture

English Government- Finances, Administration, Law and Kingship

Edward the Confessor and the Godwins

At this time, England was divided into Anglo Saxon Shires in the South (Dominated by Shire of Wessex-From Winchester and Berkshire to Devon and Cornwall) and the Danelaw (Danish) in the North. 


North of England+East Anglian Coast settled by Vikings, led to warfare between Saxon and Vikings. Alfred the Great's successful defence of Saxon areas, use of defended towns (such as Burghs, which were Anglo-Saxon defended towns which had walls around them) and effective organisation on tax had forced Saxon and Vikings to come to a peaceful resolution. Danelaw to the North of England was considered Viking in culture and ethnicity but under the Jurisdition of the English Crown

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William's claim to the throne 2

The offer of the throne from Edward

Edward might have offered the throne to William to keep him quiet and strengthen Edward's position in England. He named Edgar the son of his nephew 'Aetheling' suggesting he was the heir to the throne. Edgar 'Aetheling' was a closer blood relative, and Saxon sources don't support any promise to William at this time.

The promise of Harold

This promise probably wasn't completely made up, but even in the Bayeux Tapestry it isn't clear what Harold is swearing to. The promise could have taken place either at Bonneville (William of Poitiers) or Bayeux (Bayeux Tapestry.) It is possible that Harold swore his support to William, but felt forced into it or that the slightly different attitudes to the relationship between Vassal and Lord led to a misunderstanding between them. It was also the tradition to leave hostages to support promises made, and Harold didn't do this.

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William's claim to the throne 3

Church Support 

-The Pope supported William's claim, whilst under the English Church under Stigand, (Archbishop of Canterbury) supported Harold. Stigand was on the side of the Godwin's, and wasn't even approved Archbishop by the Pope.

-However, William only recieved Papal support because Lanfranc (an Italian scholar who lived in Normandy) had appealed to the Pope for William. At this time, the Church was centralising power in the Pope, and the Pope wanted to ensure that the church in each country was under his control. William offered him a way of bringing the English church back under control

The Exile of Tostig 

-Tostig (Harold's brother and the Earl of Northumbria) faced a revolt among his people. Harold, on Edward's orders, exiled him. Tostig felt betrayed and spent the next few years trying to encourage a foreign invasion of England to undermind Harold. Visiting William, Swegn of Denmark, he finally persuaded Harald Hardraada (a Viking King) to attempt an invasion.

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Castles 1

(http://www.angelfire.com/hi5/interactive_learning/NormanConquest/feudal-system.gif)The Normans oppressed the English through Castles and the New Norman Military Elite.

Castles were built to protect a small amount of people- Saxon homes were often destroyed to build them.

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Castles 2


-Castles were often built in large towns, near mints, river crossings or important roads.

Motte and Bailey Castles

-This type of castle was easy to build (local Saxon labour was often forced to build them) and they used material that was local and easily available. These castles were normally small, which meant that they could be defended by a small group of men.

A tool for warfare

-Long battles (like the Battle of Hastings in 1066) were unusual during this time. Most warfare was done by raiding an enemies land or through small fights. Controlling land was essential to winning. William's castles underlined his domination of England in the Harrying of the North and discouraged foreign invasion and domestic uprisings.

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