The history of the Normans began a long time before 1066. Originating from the 'Norsemen' they were one of the most successful warrior tribes of the Dark Ages that came to dominate Europe from the Baltic Sea to the island of Sicily and the borders of Eastern Europe.
Beginning as Viking raiders in the eighth century, the Normans not only changed the landscape of Europe but were changed by their new conquests. As a military force they became unstoppable; as Conqerors, they established their own kingdom in Normandy from where they set out on a number of devastating campaigns, where they also introduced innovations in politics, architecture and culture.
In A Brief History of the Normans Leading French historian, Francois Neveux, gives an accessible and authoritative introduction.
©2008 Francois Neveux. Howard Curtis (P)2014 Audible Ltd
I found this book by searching for Jonathan Keeble, who is my absolute favorite reader of nonfiction. He somehow conveys the meaning of what he reads much more effectively than other narrators I've listened to. And his voice is just a pleasure to listen to. This was a bit of a challenging book to put into audio format, especially for an audience unfamiliar (like me) with the French language and French geography, because it often breaks down into a soup of French place names. Keeble deals with that challenge as well as can be expected, I think, but I have a confession to make: I ended up buying a cheap used copy of the book so I could read along and, from time to time, look up the place names so I could get a sense of the geography.
I quite enjoyed learning more about the dramatic early life of William before he became the Conqueror. It was also rather interesting to hear a French historian's take on the "Conquest": Neveux portrays King Harold II as an oath-breaking usurper and William as (more or less) the wronged rightful heir to the throne. His cousin King Edward the Confessor had promised the throne to William; Harold had promised to support William's claim and then went back on that promise. Neveux seems to see it as just that simple and straightforward, whereas I think English-speaking historians tend to find mitigating circumstances for Harold and reasons not to like William. Which is a circumstance that I find sort of interesting in itself.
If your interested in this subject, and have a map close by, this book answers many questions about Europe
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