The Normans: Power, Conquest and Culture in 11th-Century Europe. Judith A Green

4 stars for this interesting read on Norman history and legend.

This is a painstakingly detailed look at the Normans, particularly as regards their rise to power and their achievements in the eleventh century. To investigate the truth behind the image of the Normans as unstoppable warriors produced by an exceptionally well-organised society, Green, who is professor emeritus of history at the University of Edinburgh, draws extensively on contemporaneous accounts such as those by Dudo, William of Jumièges and William of Poitiers, and interrogates the narratives they constructed. She examines too the Bayeux Tapestry, Norman buildings both secular and ecclesiastical, the law and literature.

Green emphasises in her conclusion that there was no single Norman world. Rather, encounters with other peoples led to variances over time and place. Norman successes are attributed by Green to their leaders, good timing and some luck, and the book ends by contemplating what fields such as archaeology and the study of archaeological DNA might yet contribute to the debate.

I enjoyed learning more about the Normans in this book, although sometimes I felt that the writer’s need not to generalise or homogenise the Normans might prevent her reaching any conclusions about them at all. The examination of power, unfettered or contested, was most interesting.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in return for an honest review.


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