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The Norman Yoke

Duration:
45 minutes
First broadcast:
Thursday 10 April 2008

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss ‘the Norman Yoke’ – the idea that the Battle of Hastings sparked years of cruel oppression for the Anglo Saxons by a Norman ruling class.

‘Norman saw on English oak,
On English neck a Norman yoke;
Norman spoon in English dish,
And England ruled as Normans wish.’

Taken from Sir Walter Scott’s novel ‘Ivanhoe’, these words encapsulate the idea of ‘the Norman Yoke’ – that the Battle of Hastings sparked the cruel oppression of Anglo-Saxon liberties by a foreign ruling class. Certainly, William the Conqueror proclaimed his power in great castles and cathedrals, turned the church upside down and even changed the colour of scribal ink.

But was it really such a terrible time for the Anglo Saxons or was the idea of beastly Norman oppressors and noble Saxon sufferers invented later to shore up the idea of Englishness?

With Sarah Foot, Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Christ Church, Oxford; Richard Gameson, Professor in the Department of History at Durham University; Matthew Strickland, Professor of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow.

  • Further Reading

    Marjorie Chibnall, The Debate on the Norman Conquest (Manchester UP, 1999)

    Elisabeth van Houts, ‘The Trauma of 1066’, History Today 46.10 (1996)

    Richard Gameson, ed., The Study of the Bayeux Tapestry (Boydell and Brewer, 1997)

    Sally Thompson, Women Religious: The Founding of English Nunneries after the Norman Conquest (OUP, 1991)

    James Holt, ed., Domesday Studies: papers read at the novocentenary conference of the Royal Historical Society and the Institute of British Geographers : Winchester, 1986 (Woodbridge, 1987)

    Christopher Hill, ‘The Norman Yoke’ in Democracy and the Labour Movement: essays in honour of Dona Torr, ed. Saville, J. (1954); reprinted in his collected papers: Puritanism and Revolution: Studies in the Interpretation of the English Revolution of the 17th Century (Secker and Warburg, 1958)

    Matthew Strickland, ed., Anglo-Norman Warfare: Studies in Late Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman Military Organization and Warfare (Boydell and Brewer, 1992)

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

    H. Thomas, The English and the Normans: ethnic hostility, assimilation, and identity 1066-c.1220 (Oxford University Press, 2003)

    Richard Gameson, The Manuscripts of Early Norman England 1066-1130 (London: British Academy, 1999)

    E. Fernie, The Architecture of Norman England (Oxford UP, 2000)

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