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Unit information: The Norman Conquest in 2020/21

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Unit name The Norman Conquest
Unit code HIST20127
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Pohl
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The Norman Conquest of 1066 represents one of the most important and influential – but also one of the most widely debated – events in the history of England and Europe. The momentous victory of William the Conqueror at the Battle of Hastings and his coronation as the first Norman king of England on Christmas Day that same year marked the creation of a new and powerful cross-Channel dominion: the so-called Anglo-Norman kingdom. For generations, modern historians have analysed, discussed and disputed the impact of the Norman Conquest on virtually every aspect of medieval society and culture on both sides of the English Channel, including politics, religion, economy, law, language and, not least, identity and cultural memory. Some of the changes were profound and long-lasting, for example, the introduction of the French language and literature into England, as well as the creation of a new political and religious landscape (including the erection of imposing Norman castles and palaces, as well as of Norman monasteries). On the other hand, there were also important continuities between the Anglo-Saxon and the Anglo-Norman period. In the course of this unit, we will explore the Norman Conquest from a broad variety of critical perspectives and familiarise ourselves with the most important primary sources, including not only historical texts such as chronicles, poems and songs, but also other forms of narratives such as the famous Bayeux Tapestry, as well as Norman art and architecture. We will also compare and contrast the prevalent scholarly interpretations of the Norman Conquest and examine how our modern notions and memories of this key event have developed over the course of several decades. In addition, we will contextualise the Norman Conquest of England with the expansion of Norman power and dominion into other parts of medieval Europe (and beyond) during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, including the Norman dominions in the Mediterranean (Sicily and Southern Italy) and the Holy Land (Antioch). Taken together, these explorations will enable us to understand more precisely how the events of 1066 and its aftermath have helped to shape the face of Europe.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this unit, successful students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an in-depth understanding and detailed knowledge of the history of the Norman Conquest and the wider Anglo-Norman world
  2. Integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider historical analysis and argument
  3. Demonstrate an understanding of how to approach a long term historical analysis from a modern perspective
  4. Select relevant evidence in order to illustrate historical arguments
  5. Identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint, as appropriate to level I

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

1 x 3500-word Essay (50%) [ILOs 1-5]; 1 x Timed Assessment (50%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

F. Barlow, The Norman Conquest and Beyond (London, 1983).

R. A. Brown, The Norman Conquest (London, 1984).

M. Chibnall, The Debate on the Norman Conquest (Manchester, 1999).

England and Normandy in the Middle Ages, ed. D. Bates et al (London, 1994).

H. M. Thomas, The English and the Normans: Ethnic Hostility, Assimilation and Identity 1066-c.1220 (Oxford, 2003).

A. Williams, The English and the Norman Conquest (Woodbridge, 1995).