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Episode 2 of 3

Duration: 1 hour

In the second of this three-part series, Professor Robert Bartlett explores the impact of the Norman conquest of Britain and Ireland. Bartlett shows how William the Conqueror imposed a new aristocracy, savagely cut down opposition and built scores of castles and cathedrals to intimidate and control. He also commissioned the Domesday Book, the greatest national survey of England that had ever been attempted.

England adapted to its new masters and both the language and culture were transformed as the Normans and the English intermarried. Bartlett shows how the political and cultural landscape of Scotland, Wales and Ireland were also forged by the Normans and argues that the Normans created the blueprint for colonialism in the modern world.

Music Played

49 items
  • Photo: Robert Bartlett

    Photo: Robert Bartlett

    Professor Robert Bartlett stood outside the Tower of London, which was built by William the Conqueror.

  • A quote from William of Malmesbury

    ‘England has become a dwelling-place of foreigners and a playground for lords of alien blood. No Englishmen today is an earl, a bishop, or an abbot; new faces everywhere enjoy England’s riches and gnaw her vitals, nor is there any hope of ending this miserable state of affairs’ - William of Malmesbury.

  • Episode Two Historical Moment – The Harrying of the North

    In the years after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Anglo-Saxon resistance was strong. In the North of England, it erupted into open warfare. In 1069, William marched on York to crush a rebellion. The Normans devastated the north of England. They sacked every village and farmstead as they went. This campaign of systematic slaughter and destruction is known as the 'Harrying of the North'. More than 100,000 people died. A huge area across northern and central England was laid waste by this scorched-earth assault on the northern rebels. 16 years later, these areas were still desolate wastelands. William was unrepentant. He spent Christmas 1069, celebrating amid the squalor and death in York. He even had his full coronation regalia sent up from London. And on the third anniversary of his coronation, he wore his crown and robes in the ruins of York Minster – a symbolic gesture of triumph over the rebels.

  • Things You Might Not Know About the Normans

    30 years after the Norman Conquest, no village in England was more than a day’s march from a Norman fortification or castle.

    William marched on York to stamp out a rebellion. 100,000 people died as a result of his scorched-earth policy: it was called the Harrying of the North.

    The Normans introduced the names William, Robert and Henry to Britain.

    They also introduced rabbits to the British countryside.

    The Normans added the French word for son, ‘fils’, to surnames in Britain and Ireland eventually giving us “Fitzsimmons”, son of Simon, and “Fitzpatrick”, son of Patrick.

    Just 100 years after the Battle of Hastings, the Norman colonisers and the English were so integrated that it was impossible to tell them apart.

    In 1086, Norman barons owned 55% of the land in England. Anglo Saxons owned only 5%.

  • BBC Hands on History

    BBC Hands on History

    Find out how you can go on your own Norman adventure with Hands on History - helping to bring history to life.

    Start your Norman adventure
  • Norman Season

    Norman Season

    This programme is part of Norman Season on BBC Two and BBC Four, a collection of programmes highlighting the effect that the Normans have had on our civilisation.

    Go to the Norman Season website


Robert Bartlett
Fatima Salaria
Fatima Salaria
Robin Dashwood
Executive Producer
Chris Granlund


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