Book Fashion Picture Each Day Of The Year History 1066: The Year of the Conquest

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1066: The Year of the Conquest

Introduction

In this critique of 1066: The year of the conquest, I will identify Howarth’s purpose in writing this book and discuss how well he accomplished his purpose. I will also assess the merits and demerits of this book in terms of the themes, sources used and the author’s writing style.

Author’s theme

Howarth’s 1066 was a description of the “tremendous drama [in England] which began on the 6th of January with the burial of King Edward in Westminster Abbey, and ended on Christmas Day in the same place with the coronation of King William” (7). Howarth balances his book by giving insight into the lives and characters of all the people in England. , from the peasantry to the ruling classes, before and after the conquest.

Author’s purpose

Howarth states that was “not intended to be read as a work of scholarship, only as an evocation of the thrills, pleasures, and miseries of that year” (7). Howarth acknowledges that it is difficult to find a strictly factual account of a time when the sources were sparse and/or biased. Because of this, Howarth necessarily had to make some assumptions and conclusions in his account of the conquest.

Author’s writing style

Reading Howarth’s book, it was very easy to forget that this is a historical account of the Norman invasion. His writing is very descriptive and colorful. Howarth succeeded magnificently in keeping the reader engrossed in the book. The book reads so much like a historical novel that you wonder how much is factual. Howarth admittedly added his own opinions and advanced his own conclusions to the account to fill in the unsourced gaps. For example, Howarth believes that the change in King Harold’s behavior between the Battle of Stamford Bridge and the Battle of Hastings is due to his learning that William had papal blessing. This conclusion may be correct, but Howarth offers no evidence to support it. He never mentions that anyone specifically told King Harold of the fact, he only says that someone must have. Therefore, Howarth does not base his conclusions on factual evidence, but on what he suspects must have happened. This may be necessary when very few sources exist, but to me it casts doubt on the validity of his claims.

Howarth’s writing style is the popular style, not scholarly. The portrait he paints of medieval England is very vividly executed. Through his words, a picture emerges in the mind of exactly what the country looked like at this time. In addition to the picture of England, Howarth is also very successful in giving us insight into the characters of the men involved in the struggle, from the villagers who became soldiers to the rulers they fought for. For example, it is very easy for the reader to see the disillusionment and indecision on Duke William’s face after hearing that King Edward had died and that Harold had been crowned as the new king.

I really enjoyed the way Howarth included the customs of the people involved. I believe that customs determine why people act the way they do, so it’s important to consider that when reading history. For this reason I find the first chapter describing the life of the average Englishman and Englishmen very informative and entertaining.

I also appreciate how Howarth included past political and social events that influenced how people acted before, during and after the Battle of Hastings. For example, William’s invasion would have seemed confusing if Howarth had not informed us of King Edward’s promise to him and the meeting between William and Harold in Normandy.

Author’s Sources

Howarth used mainly primary sources for this book. He states that of the twenty sources he used, “twelve were written within living memory of 1066, and all but two within a hundred years” of the Battle of Hastings (7). Howarth also varied his sources to present the different versions of what happened; the various versions belonged to the English, the Normans and the Scandinavians.

Conclusion

Overall I think this was a good text about the Norman Conquest. Although I find some of his conclusions suspect, the book is written in a way that is meant to entertain while offering valuable information about the lives of medieval people during one of the most important dates in Western history.

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